The Orioles continue to hold the most international signing bonus slot money in baseball before the reset later this summer. However, they are conceding that the top-tier talent no longer is on the board and funds are more likely to be redirected.
This is just one of the points made today during a conference call with executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and new senior director of international scouting Koby Perez.
Perez was hired yesterday after spending the past five years as the Indians’ director of Latin American scouting and international cross-checker.
“Obviously, this is an extremely important hire for this organization,” Elias said during a call that lasted 19 minutes. “It’s a focus of the administration to improve our activities and our capabilities in the international market, specifically the Latin American market. And in searching for the right leader for this position, it was very important to me to find someone with a great deal of experience operating in those markets, with a great deal of credibility and also with a lot of connections. And this was in addition to everything else that you look for in a scouting director in terms of baseball knowledge and evaluation abilities.
“So much of the activity that takes place in the international arena is dependent on relationships and reputation, and to get it in one package, this package, is very difficult. I’m very fortunate this time of the year especially to have been able to bring Koby in, who has experience as a Latin American scouting director already. He has worked in that part of the world for almost 10 years. He spent time living in the Dominican Republic working under Sal Agostinelli, the very successful and renowned international scouting director with the Philadelphia Phillies and then was hired by the Indians and was a big part of building out and modernizing their operation into what is today a very vibrant, modern international scouting department. Uses a lot of technology, but also has emphasized the use of traditional scouting methods very well.”
Elias worked with Perez in the Cardinals scouting department before he joined general manager Jeff Luhnow in Houston.
“In a lot of ways,” Elias said, “I believe he is the perfect person for establishing a large and new presence for the Orioles over the next several years and to ramp up our efforts in this critical market.”
Said Perez: “As Mike said, we’ve worked together in the past and I trust him and I know that he’s going to lead this organization to a good spot. Just very excited. When I was called to come aboard, I was ecstatic about the situation that we can put ourselves in here and try to hit the ground running here and try to add some prospects so we can give Mike some chips there for the future.”
Perez already has met with international scout Calvin Maduro, a former independent league teammate, on a paper-thin staff that gradually will increase over time. He hasn’t shared a set number of scouts that he’d like to bring aboard, saying that he’ll “play it by ear” and go “day to day working with Mike and the staff that we currently have.”
“I think what we’re going to do is probably take our time just because we want to make sure that we hire the right people,” Perez said. “We want to hire qualified people that can be here with us for a long time. We don’t want to rush into any decisions.
“Fortunately, Calvin and his staff so far have done a decent job of knowing the names. And that along with the lists I bring and the players I already know, I think we’re going to be able to hit the ground running and take our time as far as making sure that we put the right people in place.”
The Orioles will keep most of their focus on the Latin American countries. Mike Snyder has been retained as director of Pacific Rim operations and baseball development and allows them to concentrate on other areas of the world.
“This organization - and particularly Mike Snyder, who has been in charge of Pacific Rim operations - has a very rich presence in terms of monitoring the Asian markets and I feel good about where we have been there and where we are and I see no reason to dismantle our capabilities there,” Elias said.
“That said, the Latin American market is much more vital to any major league franchise. There’s just simply more major league players, specifically more position players, emerging from those markets. So, we will prioritize Latin America over any other international market. That’s just simply how is. But monitoring what’s going on in other parts of the world will continue to be part of our international effort.”
Perez said the Orioles are frontrunners to sign a “late bloomer” on the international market during the current period based on their available funds. Elias added that the Orioles are in position “to react better than any other team” if a player emerges that interests them.
“Typically, a player appearing right now might be from the Cuban market or the Asian market specifically, so we’ll keep an eye on that,” Elias said. “But the reality is, the way that the Latin American market works with July 2 is that the process to sign these players begins years in advance of the July 2 date, so with July 2, 2018 having come and gone, a huge, huge majority of the players available on that signing period are long spoken for.
“So, we do have a lot of money remaining, but we’re not going to spend the money just to spend it and say that we spent it. We want it to be a worthwhile investment and it is real money and there are other things we can do with that money to invest in our club, invest in our operation and we’ll be very careful about using it, just knowing that the reality is, most of the players for 2018 are long gone.”
Elias noted again that he doesn’t anticipate making immediate hires to replace director of player development Brian Graham and director of scouting Gary Rajsich.
“We will have hires throughout the year,” he said. “In the analytics space, there may be scouts added, other employees, but as I said, with regards to our scouting and player development operations, we have full capability in place now to run those departments and I expect to have an extra level of personal involvement with the draft and with the farm system this year as we look to get things organized and up and running in the manner in which we want.
“Between my involvement and the work by people like (director of minor league operations) Kent Qualls and (assistant scouting director) Brad Ciolek, I feel very good about where we’re at. And we will make determinations on the leadership of those departments in a manner that is timely, but also careful about who the right people are and what the structure is for the future. So, I’m not in any kind of panic there to address those leadership positions.”
Other business is occupying Elias’ hours as the calendar has flipped to a new year.
“We’re very busy on all fronts,” he said. “We have normal front office activity going on in terms of all manner of player decisions this winter, but also the coaching searches both at the major and minor league level are ongoing. We’ve made a lot of progress there. I think we will announce the shape and specifics of those staffs once they are totally complete, but we are sort of quietly working day and night on those fronts and making hires as we go.”
Pérez and reliever Richard Bleier are calling into tonight’s “Hot Stove Show,” which airs from 6-7 p.m. on 105.7 The Fans and is broadcast from Bunzzz Sports Bar & Grill.
In the meantime, you can check Steve Melewski’s blog on MASNsports.com for more of Pérez’s comments on the conference call.