03 August 2018

Can Victor Victor Mesa Gamble Himself into Big Money?

After the whirlwind of the July trading deadline, the Orioles sit with 8.25 MM in allotted international signing bonus money.  The only team with more than them in total are the Yankees with 8.75 MM, but the Yankees have dedicated roughly 4.5 MM of that in players they have already signed.  Additionally, the Yankees are chock full of outfielders and Victor Victor Mesa is AA ready and looking for a place to get real time and money as a Major League player.  As a nearly ready for prime time player, the Yankees do not represent that.

Another player with a great deal of open money is the Marlins.  They have about 4 MM free from their initial total.  Much of that was supposed to be dedicated to 16 year old Cuban Sandy Gaston, but, for whatever reason, his nearly 2 MM deal broke down and no one is exactly sure where they stand now.  That may mean that the Marlins are now in the running.

Back to the Orioles, today they are supposed to name a few international signings from Curacao, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic.  All of the big money prospects from these locations signed shortly after the July 2nd date when signings for this year are allowed by MLB (season ends around June 15th).  That means we should be surprised if any of these new signings surpass 500k in their bonuses.  The Orioles should be in prime position to offer Mesa four or five million dollars.

But lets say that Mesa feels squeezed by this.  Maybe he really does not want to go to the Orioles, but accepting a deal from two to four million from the Yankees or Marlins is not to his liking either.  What could he do?  He could, and this is a huge risk, declare residency in the United States and enter the draft.  Such a process would mean winter ball for him and starting up with an Independent league team to showcase his talent and get him into shape.

The first question we have to ask is where does Victor Victor Mesa sit right now, talent-wise.  Well, he profiles as a backend top 100 talent.  He has a strong arm and is fast, a genuine centerfielder, but with some question as to the impact of his bat.  If you look at draftees in the back end of the Top 100 prospects, you see:
Name Rank Drafted Bonus
Casey Mize 20 1 7.5
Nick Madrigal 32 4 6.4
Joey Bart 35 2 7
Alec Bohm 45 3 5.9
Jonathan India 55 5 5.3
Brady Singer 65 18 4.3
Matthew Liberatore 66 16 3.5
Jerred Kelenic 67 6 4.5
Travis Swaggerty 86 10 4.4
Cole Winn 97 15 3.2
Mesa seems to fit into that 3-4.5 MM range based on where evaluators think of him.  That is on par with what he might expect currently as an international free agent.  However, if he excels in his winter league and looks good in the Spring, he may be seen as a player would could contribute in 2019, if not 2020.  That level of projected certainty is likely to be quite valuable.  In that case, I think you could see Mesa moving past five million and maybe challenging for a lot more.

Of course, the 22 year old Mesa cannot threaten to go back to college like many valuable juniors can.  Similarly, there really is not much money in winter leaguers and no money in the indy summer leagues.  Any team that drafts Mesa would be able to hold his feet against that baseline and could potentially get him to agree to a deal far less than what a college junior of that talent and floor would earn.

Mesa's saving grace may well be though that he could simply jet off to Korea.  Assuming that a Korean team would want someone who is young and did well in international competition (I assume that would be a definitive yes), he would probably see something in the neighborhood of 500k per season.  The average KBO player makes around 240k with top end talent approaching 2 MM.  I figure Mesa would likely see something on the lower end until he establishes himself in the KBO after a year or two.

However, that may not be a saving grace as I am fairly certain that Mesa could be drafted every single year during that time frame.  To escape that draft eligibility, Mesa would need to go undrafted in the previous year.  I do not think playing in the KBO negates that, which could really hamper his eventual pay day.

The other option would be this: Mesa could declare residency in another country and then play in the KBO for three years to fulfill age limitation on being considered outside of the signing pool allocation.  His time in Cuban professional leagues should be sufficient to meet the requirements of being a professional.  If they do not, his three years of KBO action at that time would fall three years short.  Assuming he could be a free again in three years and that he excels in KBO play, he could be looking at a 6/70 MM deal by a team like the Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, or really almost anyone.

So, is Mesa a gambler or not?

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