Major League Baseball remains at a standstill, but the Detroit Tigers did add five talented youngsters to the organization on Saturday. Traditionally, international signing day, the first day of the international signing period for the year, was set in July, but the pandemic bumped it to January, where it remains for the time being. There won’t be much more to come as the Tigers committed most of their $5,721,200 bonus pool immediately.
While teams sometimes take a bulk approach, handing out a host of lower tier, six-figure deals, the Tigers have keyed in more on a handful of bigger ticket names since the bonus pool system was enacted. Things first started to change in 2017 with their first million dollar signing, bringing Venezuelan shortstop Alvaro Gonzalez to the Tigers. Even bigger fish followed in 2018, as general manager Al Avila inked two big ticket free agents in outfielder Jose de la Cruz for $1.8 million, and infielder Adinso Reyes for $1.45 million. That group is now 20 and 21 years old, and none of the three has done much of note to climb up prospect lists in their initial forays in the Complex Leagues and Low-A levels.
The Tigers’ next step up into competition for some of the top players brought in Cuban-born outfielder Roberto Campos back in 2019 on a $2.85 million deal. In 2021, the delayed 2020 international signing day saw the club ink Dominican shortstop Cristian Santana for $2.95 million. Those are the two biggest bonuses the organization has ever paid a teenaged international free agent. Both of those players are currently ranked in our top 15 for the Tigers’ farm system, with Santana checking in seventh overall.
This year, the headliner of their acquisitions today is Venezuelan shortstop Javier Osorio. The 16-year-old infielder ranks 13th on MLB Pipeline’s top 50 international prospect list, while Baseball America has Osorio 10th overall in the class on their IFA Big Board. Per Jesse Sanchez of MLB, the Tigers have agreed to a $2.2 million bonus for Osorio.
A slender 6’2”, Osorio, unlike the majority of “shortstops” signed as teenagers, looks to have the ability to stick at the position if his skills continue to develop. However, it’s his advanced offensive skills that are the key here, as Osorio already carries the bat speed and control to present as one of the top prospects in his class. There’s a chance he develops into a very good, power hitting shortstop in time. Check out Trevor Hooth’s preview for a little more detail on him.
The Tigers also gave a $1.2 million bonus to 17-year-old shortstop Samuel Gil, who is also from Venezuela, where the Tigers have consistently maintained a stronger presence than most MLB teams throughout the political unrest of the last decade. Having the greatest Venezuelan player of all-time in-house, and on his way to the Hall of Fame as a Tiger, presumably helps a bit as well.
While a little undersized at 5’9”, and not projected as a notable power threat, Gil is described as having outstanding feel for the game and an advanced, well-rounded skillset. His baseball IQ was pretty strongly praised by Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Gil was ranked 21st in Baseball America’s ranking of the class.
The Tigers also reached agreement with Venezuelan catcher Josue Breceño, and shortstop Heison Sanchez out of the Dominican, each for $800K. Thus far there is little information available on either. The total of those four players’ bonuses adds up to $5 million, leaving the Tigers just over $700K to spend on other players. Per Baseball America, they’ve also signed Dominican outfielder, Delvis Matos. Matos’ bonus amount isn’t available just yet, and little is known about any of the three at this point.
Hopefully, the Tigers Director of International Operations, Tom Moore, and Director of Latin American Operations, Miguel Garcia, found the organization some good ones here. New Director of Latin American Player Development, Euclides Rojas, will now be charged with their development as players over the next two years as the youngsters prepare to come stateside. The Tigers have thus far had precious little to show for their increased focus on big name international talent. In order to keep their farm system productive in the years ahead, they’ll need a few of these players to work out and make their way into the upper levels of the minor leagues as quality prospects who can potentially make an impact at the major league level. For now, such results are still a long way off.
Update: The Tigers have also announced the signing of six-foot, 165 pound Dominican outfielder, Junior Quezada, as well as Dominican catcher Manuel Santana. Terms were not disclosed for either.