Analysis

Phillies History of International Signings Leaves Much to Be Desired

The Phillies have made a commitment to international signings recently but some wonder if it is too little too late. With talents like Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu of Cuba already discovered, the Phillies may have missed an opportunity to sign talented players at below-market values. Last year, the Phillies signed the fourth-ranked prospect, third baseman Luis Encarnacion, and Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.

This year, the Phillies inked SS Arquimedes Gamoba, the fifteenth-ranked prospect, as well as shorstop Daniel Brito, and lefty Jhon Nunez. If any one of the above players reaches the Majors with the Phillies, it will be a change from the direction the team has taken with home-grown international players over the years. While the team has produced infielders Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis, the results haven’t exactly been sterling.

The Phillies have been able to find hidden gems but unfortunately for them, these same foreign hidden gems were either left unprotected and selected in Rule 5 drafts, as was the case for 1987 AL MVP George Bell of the Dominican Republic, 1984 AL MVP Willie Hernandez of Puerto Rico, and Manny Trillo of Venezuela, or traded too quickly, like Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins of Canada.

To demonstrate the Phillies inability to sign, develop, and keep top international talent, here is a countdown of the top five Phillies that signed with and played for the club on their first contract ranked by their performance. This means players like Hernandez and Trillo do not count even though they returned later, nor do players like Tony Gonzalez or Tony Taylor who were international players but were discovered by different clubs. Warning: some of the names on this list may shock you.

5. Robinson Tejeda – signed November 24, 1998

Tejada was with the Phillies for one season but he put together a strong season as a swing-man, going 4-3 with a 3.57 ERA in 26 games, 13 starts at age 23. Tejada would be traded on April 1, 2006 for outfielder David Dellucci.

 

4. Pancho Herrera – signed October 15, 1954

Herrera was technically signed away from the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League in 1954 but was extensively scouted as a player in Cuba. Herrera’s stop in Philadelphia was brief but sweet, hitting .271/.349/.430 with 31 homers in 300 games with a Rookie of the Year runner-up finish to his credit.

3. Antonio Bastardo – signed February 17, 2005

Bastardo was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2005. The lefty specialist has fooled hitters with a fastball/slider combination and is the Phillies all-time leader in K/9 IP among pitchers with at least 150 innings pitched for the club.

2. Juan Samuel – signed April 29, 1980

Samuel was signed out of the Dominican Republic at age 20 and saw his first taste of Major League action in 1983. Samuel was the NL Rookie of the Year runner up in 1984 and was an All-Star second baseman for the Phillies in 1984 and 1987.

1. Carlos Ruiz – signed December 4, 1998

The road to the Major Leagues was long and hard for Chooch. Signed as a 19-year old second baseman in 1998, Ruiz did not crack a Major League roster until 2006. Chooch’s persistence paid off in spades, however, earning a World Series ring in 2008, an All-Star appearance in 2012, and calling a Roy Halladay Perfect Game and No Hitter.

And there you have it: one player that played one full season, another that lasted just over two, a lefty specialist, and a pair of All-Stars. Hopefully, this year’s crop of international signees, and Maikel Franco, can change the Phillies’ fortunes.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Mudmin

    July 9, 2014 at 8:12 am

    I had never heard that we had Juan Marichal. I googled it and couldn’t find it anywhere. He is not listed in baseball-reference as ever being transacted by the Phillies.I also did a quick google search and didn’t see anything. What was the story there?

    • Jeff Orbach

      July 9, 2014 at 8:24 am

      Maybe he meant Fergie Jenkins? Because I don’t think Marichal was from Canada.

  2. yam bag bert

    July 9, 2014 at 8:23 am

    The story: Ian spits BS.

    • Ian Riccaboni

      July 9, 2014 at 9:07 am

      Bert,

      Other than the typo, what is false? The Phillies have never had a strong international commitment and it is somewhat refreshing that Amaro is taking chances on top international talent. Did I miss someone that fits the criteria?

  3. Oran Kelley

    July 9, 2014 at 11:23 am

    I wonder what par on this course is? How does the Phillies’ rate of success compare to, say, the Brewers’? Or the Pirates’? Where would the Phillies rank amongst all MLB teams?

    The fact that the Phillies’ international signing record leaves something to be desired is a given: I’d like for them to have signed every single international prospect who panned out ever. Though that’s to be desired, it isn’t to be expected. But what IS to be expected?

    • Lefty

      July 9, 2014 at 11:25 am

      I think that’s a reasonable question.

    • Scotty Ingerton

      July 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      As far as the Pirates, both Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco were free agent signings out of the Dominican Republic. That’s two thirds of one of the best young outfields in the game.

      • Oran Kelley

        July 9, 2014 at 12:32 pm

        My guess would have been that the Pirates would be the class of the small market teams in this regard, but I wonder how many of their international signings haven’t made it. Where’s Ping-Hung Chi, for instance? On the other hand, if the Pirates do have a real edge here, one wonders how they do it, and how the Phillies might do likewise. I doubt the market for international players is uniformly efficient, though with Cuba, we’re probably now all dealing with the same information.

    • Ian Riccaboni

      July 9, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      Oran,

      This is a great question, one that would take a lot of research.

      This list was compiled for a different project that I am working on but I thought it would start an interesting discussion about the Phillies efforts to sign more top international talent. I think the main thinking point that I didn’t express very well was “Did the Phillies (finally) jump in the international market at a time when prices are already at a premium?”

      Most teams stockpile international talent these days but that wasn’t always the case. I think right now, the successes of international talent, like Marte and Polanco as Scotty mentions, has driven up the price tags on younger players, particularly this year’s crop of talent.

      Some things I could find:

      Phils were in the bottom third of international spending in 2010ish according to unnamed executives: http://articles.philly.com/2010-07-24/sports/24970266_1_phillies-spending-catcher-carlos-ruiz-international-signings

      In 2012, they spent nearly $2 million in two days when the international market opened, put them among the upper third.

      It seems like there was a shift somewhere in that time frame, slightly before the successes of Puig, Cespedes, Marte, Polanco, etc. It just feels like there’s a gold rush right now and teams are paying top dollar for players that, in most years, aren’t top talent. This leaves me happy that the Phillies are becoming aggressive players in the international market but irked that they may be getting pinched in a players’ market.

      • Oran Kelley

        July 9, 2014 at 12:50 pm

        Well, I think the international market has been evolving into a players market for a while, at least for the folks who get all the attention–like Puig. Not sure how the pool system will efect that (I’m betting some agent ends up suing MLB over it . . . maybe at the WTO! ). But there seems to be a active market at the 500k level, and taking more of the right chances there could pay off in the long run. Of course, they’d be running after a lot of the “toolsy” (read “risky”) players they used to draft, but here they wouldn’t be passing up on more proven college-level talent to do so.

  4. Scotty Ingerton

    July 9, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Ian – How do feel about them taking a run at Yasmani Tomas? http://www.baseballamerica.com/international/power-hitting-yasmani-tomas-leaves-cuba/

    • Ian Riccaboni

      July 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      Have seen tape and am very impressed by his power. His body type and shape will likely force a move to first base before he is 30, though. Wouldn’t spend huge money on him unless I brought him in as a first baseman.

  5. Scotty Ingerton

    July 9, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    BTW, a little Googling told me that 10% of Major Leaguers are from the Dominican Republic. I found this old piece on the Phillies’ baseball academy there: http://articles.philly.com/2002-07-22/sports/25357781_1_dominican-talent-dominican-republic-major-leagues

    Also, a general piece on the rush to find talent there: http://www.minorleagueball.com/2013/4/9/4203922/baseball-academies-in-the-dominican-republic-from-sweatshops-to-big

  6. Bart Shart

    July 9, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Since the most mlb players come from Spanish-speaking countries, we need to bolster our scouting there, in terms of their pay, their numbers and their knowledge of the markets and the finer points of baseball. The Phillies will be better off in the long run if they invest intelligently in scouting and in their teams in the minor leagues. They need teachers and motivators.

    However, I doubt if these important things will happen with Amaro at the helm

  7. Joefa

    July 9, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    What were the names of the 2 duds that they signed and made a big deal about out of Korea a number of years ago?

  8. George

    July 9, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    One other piece of information it would be good to have before griping about the Phils’ supposed lack of an international presence is just how many times they have scouted and wanted some of players, but were simply outbid by a few dollars or told by an agent that the player would rather play in warmer climes like Los Angeles or bigger markets like New York.

    One other thing that’s being overlooked: just because the Phils only got one or two years from an international signing, that signing wasn’t alway worthless. Players like Tejeda were used to acquire other players the team had a need for.

    • Scotty Ingerton

      July 9, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      It doesn’t seem like they were really in on the bidding for guys like Cespedes, Puig, and Abreu, and I don’t see any report that those players stated a preferred location (as Tanaka did). Cespedes, Puig, and Abreu simply went to the team that gave them the most money (as is usually the case). I don’t see any case where a player went to a team that wasn’t the highest bidder.

      On Puig: “”We saw him and we liked him,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said this week. “LA jumped up astronomically on him. Good for them; they did the right thing. It’s a huge risk. It’s paid off, so far.”

      Amaro said the Phillies also looked into other recent Cuban defectors like A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who signed a four-year, $36 million deal, and Cubs prospect Jorge Soler, who signed a nine-year, $30 million contract.

      “We looked at them and had interesting conversations with their people,” Amaro said. “But people decided it was worth the risk to go and throw big-time money at guys. You hope those things work out. Hideki Irabu didn’t work out. [Jose] Contreras worked out on certain levels. [Rey] Ordonez. Dice-K [Daisuke Matsuzaka]. It’s a risk.”

      http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/7570918/yoenis-cespedes-agrees-4-year-36-million-deal-oakland-athletics

      http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/writer/danny-knobler/19437166/dodgers-sign-cuban-prospect-puig-for-42-million

      http://www.csnchicago.com/white-sox/white-sox-won-bidding-war-abreu

    • Ian Riccaboni

      July 9, 2014 at 5:46 pm

      I think my largest issue, George, may be that they haven’t been successful at nabbing quantity OR quality. Sure, Robinson Tejeda was flipped but he was literally one of maybe 17 total guys that I could find that actually made the Phillies after signing with them as an international free agent.

  9. DavidE

    July 9, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    There is so much talent coming from Cuba. Jose Abreu, Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig, Cespedes are just some of the players from there. The Phillies have to do a better job of getting that talent.

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