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Mirabelli Talks About Revised International Approach

September 24, 2010
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John MirabelliThings are a lot different these days in baseball when it comes to the International market for players.  No longer is Latin America a hot bed of reasonably priced talent, instead it has turned into an over-inflated market boiling over with shadiness.

With that in mind, several teams are starting to shift their approach with how they handle Latin America and the International market in general.  Teams are starting to tap into new markets in other areas of the world, and some teams have implemented a quality over quantity approach with the way money is spent and the players they ultimately sign.  The Cleveland Indians are one of those teams that have shifted their focus on the International front.  Not change per se, but more an adaptation to a market that has spun out of control and a more concerted concentration on allocating resources efficiently.

One of the more notable things the Indians do differently is how they approach the International Signing Period.  Not necessarily because they have changed anything, but just in how they look at the importance of it.  For those unaware, the International Signing Period runs from July 2nd to August 31st and is the official kickoff to the Latin American signing season.  Players who have turned 16-years old or will be 17 years old September 1st of the next year are eligible to be signed.  In recent years this period has really become a time of over-inflated contract demands for very high risk, young players, a market created by agents and buscones (a type of advisor/coach/agent).

I recently had a chance to sit down and talk at length about the International Signing Period and lots of other things on the International front with Indians Assistant General Manager and Scouting Director John Mirabelli.  In order to provide the full context of our discussion, I have provided the full raw quotes below in a standard question and answer format.

What has the organization changed in regard to how you operate on the International front?

John Mirabelli (JM): Change is not really the operative word.  I think it is just more how we as a mid-market team have to operate with limited resources in a market where there are astronomical, hyper-aggressive rates of signing bonuses.  We have to find value.  Just like with a lot of the things we do, we have to find talent and place the right value on that talent.  Are you going to see the Cleveland Indians signing some 16-year old right-handed Dominican pitcher and give him $4 million?  That's not going to happen.  That's not how we feel would be the most effective use of our resources.  We sign some 17-year olds and some 18-year olds.  I think that is the key.  Signing players with talent that you think have some upside.  I think if we have changed in any aspect, it is you have to look at Latin America as being risky.  There are going to be some misses there, so you have to shoot for some upside.  You are talking about 16-17-18 year old kids that don't play organized baseball.  Yeah, they have some ability, and some athleticism, but it is a risk and we know that going in.  There is going to be some attrition, and that is fine.  But I think you have to shoot for some upside, and have high value in these players.  So if we have made any adjustment I would say it is that.  Not chasing down the over-inflated kid who you are trying to evaluate at 15 and a half years old, and instead spend our time wisely really just trying to out scout people in all the countries that they are playing baseball in down there.

So rather than focus on one or two high profile Latin players, the idea the idea is to spread the money around and maybe find a few high upside players who slip through the cracks?

JM: Yes, they could slip through the cracks.  Hanley Ramirez was [a five figure bonus guy] and there are more of those guys than the big dollar guys.  These [high profile] guys are not perfect yet.  It doesn't mean that they won't, but there are not many of them now.  There is value out there, but this has become a very inflated market with super-aggressive teams.  It is a market that we do not think is productive and it hasn

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