14 February 2012

Jorge Arangure Jr. on the Orioles' International Effort

A little less than a year ago I read an article Jorge Arangure, Jr. wrote on Andres Reiner and his role in helping the Tampa Bay Rays establish themselves in Brazil.  What struck me most about the article was this passage:
Even harder to believe is that the Rays have so far spent zero dollars on the construction of the academy [in Brazil near San Paulo].  The 2.5MM project has been subsidized by both federal and local funds.  Tampa Bay's only financial commitment is for the upkeep of the academy, which could be anywhere from 500k to 1MM per year, for the next five years.  Tampa Bay won't even have to spend a dime on players' medical care since all Brazilians are covered through the country's universal health care system.
I do not believe the Orioles have established an academy in any country other than the Dominican Republic.


In light of Dan Duquette's effort in acquiring international talent, I decided to ask a few writers, well-versed in these areas, to share some of their thoughts.  Yesterday, I posted an interview with Yoo Jee-ho on the recent troubles experienced by the Orioles when they signed an amateur without informing Korea's amateur governing body, the Korean Baseball Association.

Today, we have the writer mentioned in the short excerpt above, Jorge Arangure, Jr.  He currently is on ESPN's international soccer coverage, but was on the international baseball circuit before then and still dabbles on that subject.  Those with with a steel trap for a memory will recognize him as a former baseball writer for the Washington Post covering the Orioles.

Jon Shepherd: What do the Orioles need to do to make it have a dependable international presence and how long does it realistically take to accomplish that?

Jorge Arangure Jr.: For one, they need to have consistent leadership in that area. For a few years now, they've shuffled around several people with little success. The Fred Ferreira hire probably solves that problem, but you have to wonder whether Ferreira is so far removed from the current Latin American scene that it ends up hurting the team's efforts rather than helping them. A lot has changed in how players are signed in Latin America since the days when Ferreira first stepped foot on the island.

One thing you can't do is simply spend to make the proverbial "statement." I don't think that really works. Several teams have done it and not accomplished anything out of it. What I'd do is increase the team's scouting presence in the DR. For a while, the Orioles have relied on the same group of scouts in the area. That has to change.

I still have my doubts as to whether Peter Angelos really believes in that market. The Orioles have never signed a high-profile, big-name international player. I'm just not sure Angelos likes the risk that comes with that market.

JS: Andres Reiner provided the acclaimed model for acquiring talent out of an emerging market by establishing an academy in Venezuela for the Astros.  Upon leaving the Astros, he set the foundation of a similar plan for the Rays to find useful players in Brazil.  So far, the Orioles appear to be taking a different path by holding try outs and plucking players who perform well.  For a team that is not incredibly cash flush, which approach makes more sense for them?

JA: Well I'd argue with the point that the Orioles aren't flush with cash. I think they are a pretty good revenue team. They simply choose not to spend it in the Latin America area. Having said that, I believe the Orioles have enough money to try both methods. I'd say the Rays vision for Brazil is highly ambitious. It takes a very organized team to pull it off. Everything we know suggests the Rays are that type of team. Everything we know about the Orioles suggests they are not.

JS: The Orioles have been involved in a fiasco by signing a Korean high school player without notifying the country's ruling body.  Why do you think this event has caused more of an uproar than when the Red Sox signed Junichi Tazawa from NPB?

JA: Most importantly, you're talking about two different countries. Tazawa is Japanese, so that's an entirely different baseball federation. The problem is that the Orioles either (a.) Didn't know the rules in Korea, which is troubling in itself because it could suggest that Duquette and the older scouts he's hired will have some catching up to do in regards to learning the regulations of each country, which could essentially back track their hunt for international talent; or (b.) they knowingly broke the rules, which of course is troublesome for all other sorts of reasons.

The Red Sox asked for and received permission from the Japanese baseball federation to sign Tazawa after he had graduated. Not only did the Orioles not ask permission, they also signed a player who had not yet graduated from high school, which is a big misstep.

JS: Do you think the prospects and their families potentially think poorly of the Orioles organization, limiting opportunities for the team to acquire talent in the future?  Have there been comparable events that happened in Latin America?

JA: I'm not sure this fiasco really hurts the Orioles in the eyes of the players themselves, but it makes them targets in the eyes of the baseball federations. The positive for the Orioles is that this type of system really only exists in Asia. Teams don't have to deal with baseball federations in Latin America.

JS: Based on your knowledge, who is doing the best job attracting and developing international talent?  What is this team doing that is so special and remarkable?

JA: I'd say the Rangers are probably at the top of the list. No team spends as much money as they do. But not only are they financially committed to Latin America, they also have the most manpower in the area. It's rare when I make a trip to Latin America and don't see a Rangers scout at a workout. It's rare when I'm in Latin America and I don't see one of their top execs there. They spend the money, but they do so after having done the work.

No comments: