Lingering thoughts on international intentions

The level of agitation among Orioles fans spiked again with the failure to sign any of the Cuban “big three,” though most are relying on published scouting reports and projections and otherwise know nothing about Victor Victor Mesa, Victor Mesa Jr. and Sandy Gastón,.

We’ve heard good things.

It comes across as small consolation, but the Orioles made offers for all three players and were runners-up for Gastón, despite other teams submitting bids. They attended the Oct. 3 showcase in Miami, consulted with numerous scouts and set figures that weren’t flexible.

They determined how much of their budget could be set aside for each player, what would be fiscally responsible for a team in their market, and fell short.

(It also became apparent that the brothers wanted to stay together, though there were earlier indications that they didn’t have to be a package deal.)

Baseballs generic.jpgWhile it’s true that the Orioles had $6.5 million in international signing bonus funds, which is basically akin to a salary cap, it turns into real money when offered for prospects. And that money, when rejected by the Mesas and Gastón, is being spread out among other players.

More players that none of us have watched in person.

Finding scouting reports on the Mesa brothers and Gastón was relatively simple, but a bigger challenge for Thursday’s foursome of 19-year-old Dominican right-hander Kelvin LaRoche, 18-year-old Cuban outfielder Kevin Infante, 17-year-old Venezuelan outfielder Angel Gomez and 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Gilbert Machado. They aren’t littering top international prospect rankings.

The immediate reaction on Twitter ranged from “They aren’t the Mesas or Gastón, but this is a step in the right direction,” to, “They aren’t the Mesas or Gastón and this is typical Orioles.”

I can understand both takes.

The Orioles are more active in the market, with about $1 million spent so far, and the hiring of someone to oversee the entire scouting department, including the international side that will be enhanced, is going to bring them closer to the top teams. But while they’re now reaching for items on the higher shelves, they still haven’t brought one home.

If this is, indeed, going to be a process that requires patience, the fact that the Orioles were linked to and in active negotiations with the Mesas and Gastón is a positive development. We used to sit out these storylines. And it’s important to keep sifting through the available international talent and plucking anyone with promise.

Maybe one day a Mesa will be in the cards. The concern is whether he’s going to be in the budget.

The Orioles aren’t going to simply “pocket” money that isn’t used internationally as if hording it. Part of the rebuild requires spending to increase scouting and the analytics department. While I’ve pointed out how international signing bonus slots aren’t technically used to bring in other free agents, the cash certainly can be redirected.

Spend big on a Cuban outfielder with a squared first name or take the $5.2 million required to match the Marlins’ offer and use it elsewhere.

Does that make sense?

Signing one or more of the big three would have been a tremendous public relations move, but the counter argument coming from the Orioles centers on whether it would have been smart business.

The answer will gain some clarity as we monitor how those careers unfold.

Not everyone is sold on Victor Victor as an elite hitter, and it didn’t help that the showcase amounted to a batting practice session. He slashed .354/.399/.539 for Matanzas in his last full season of play in 2016-17, but the power has been slow to surface with 11 home runs in 1,257 plate appearances.

This isn’t Yoenis Céspedes. Not yet, anyway.

I’m not offering excuses here, just trying to provide more of an explanation. There are steps in the right direction without the type of movement that so many fans hoped for and anticipated.

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