Padres Break the Bank on International Market

Friars spend millions on a baker's dozen young prospects

Preller jersey
Matthew Wood/NBC7

There is making a splash. Then there is doing a cannonball in to the kiddie pool. The Padres did the latter on the opening of Major League Baseball’s international signing period on Saturday.

The Padres cut a deal with 13 players, all from Latin America, but even more impressive than the volume of signings is the quality the Friars are adding.

Baseball America and MLB.com both make lists of the top international talent and San Diego was able to land eight players who show up in the rankings, including six of the top 30 and two of the top five. If this was a college football recruiting class the Padres would be Alabama.

So how did they get all of these guys? By spending a whole lot of cash. The Padres have already dropped upwards of $25 million on the 13 players. They only had $3.3 million for their pool allotment and will pay a dollar-for-dollar tax on anything over that. Add it up and the Friars spent about $50 million bucks on players on Saturday alone. . Keep in mind, this franchise has never spent more than $5 million in any single international signing period.

"It's a significant investment from ownership,” said Padres International Scouting Director Chris Kemp. “We're going to look to add to our talent base. We talked to ownership about potentially going beyond that allotment and it shows the commitment from our ownership to build a championship level organization. Give them credit for putting faith in our scouting department. We wanted to go get impact guys."

They gave Dominican shortstop Luis Almanzar, the number two prospect in Baseball America’s rankings and number three for MLB.com, a $4 million bonus, an international record for the organization.

“The first thing that comes to mind is the bat,” said Kemp of Almanzar. “Tremendous swing. You've got a savvy kid in the box that just knows how to hit. They say hitters are born and he looks like a natural hitter."

Believe it or not, Kemp also says the Padres are not done yet.

"I think every player that's available is going to be scouted heavily. We have a plan in place to keep scouting. We're going to be digging in the bushes in every country possible to find impact players."

July 2 is only the start of the international signing period. It extends in to the beginning of 2017.

“There are going to be plenty of players over the next year that we're going to have interest in,” said Padres General Manager A.J. Preller. “From our standpoint this is the start of the window. Throughout the year we're going to use the window to add as much talent as we can to the system."

The Padres are reportedly in the mix for a trio of top Cuban players, as well, but they have not been cleared by MLB yet. There is no doubt this is a gamble. The Padres are handing out lots of cash to a bunch of 16-year-old kids who may or may not pan out. It’s a high-risk, high-reward proposition but the majority opinion around MLB talent evaluators is if ever there was a year to go nuts with international signings this was it.

“We think a bunch of guys are going to be ready,” said Preller. “They're fairly well advanced. Sometimes in Latin America you're dealing with raw athletes. This year I think we got more polished baseball players."

Here is the full list of players the Padres inked on Saturday (all deals are pending physicals):

•    SS Luis Almanzar – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
o    Ranked No. 2 on Baseball America’s Top 50 International Prospects List
o    Ranked No. 3 on MLB.com’s Top 30 International Prospects list

•    SS Gabriel Arias – Maracay, Venezuela
o    Ranked No. 4 on Baseball America’s Top 50
o    Ranked No. 5 on MLB.com’s Top 30 International Prospects list

•    OF Jeisson Rosario – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
o    Ranked No. 6 on Baseball America’s Top 50
o    Ranked No. 9 on MLB.com’s Top 30 International Prospects list

•    SS Jordy Barley – Boca Chica, Dominican Republic
o    Ranked No. 15 on MLB.com’s Top 30 International Prospects list
o    Ranked No. 50 on Baseball America’s Top 50

•    SS Justin Lopez – Bobare, Lara, Venezuela
o    Ranked No. 27 on MLB.com’s Top 30 International Prospects list
o    Ranked No. 28 on Baseball America’s Top 50

•    OF Tirso Ornelas – Tijuana, Mexico
o    Ranked No. 28 on MLB.com’s Top 30 International Prospects list
o    No. 34 on Baseball America’s Top 50

•    C Alison Quintero – Venezuela
o    Ranked No. 22 on Baseball America’s Top 50

•    RHP Michael Miliano – Dominican Republic
o    Ranked No. 48 on Baseball America’s Top 50

•    RHP Jose Manuel Guzman – Dominican Republic

•    INF Tucupita Marcano – Venezuela

•    RHP Martin Carrasco – Mexico

•    CF Augustin Ruiz – Mexico

•    RHP Luis Patinio – Colombia

They can still add players for top dollar this year but exceeding their pool money so dramatically means the Padres will not be able to sign any international players for more than a $300,000 bonus in 2017 or 2018.

You might have noticed nine of the 13 players are position players and four of them are shortstops. That is by design. Preller says the strength of this year’s MLB Draft was pitching, so the Padres took pitchers with 10 of their first 12 selections. Now the picture is a little more complete.

“We'll start getting some balance between the guys we took in the Draft and the guys we signed internationally,” said Preller.

The next step for the 2016 international class is to start training at the Padres Dominican Republic Academy. They’ll start working with Kemp and the Padres coaching staff soon. Odds are it will take at least five years before any of them will be seen in a regular season game at Petco Park, and that’s if their development is accelerated.

But if the Padres have found even one player the caliber of a Miguel Cabrera (international class of 1999) or Miguel Sano (2009) then it all might end up being worth it.

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