(King and Prince: Felix Hernandez and son Abraham watch Ichiro hit during today’s intrasquad scrimmage.)
Flipping through the Mariners media guide (which I am wont to do), it hits home yet again just how international MLB has become.
That’s why Bud Selig’s statement recently that an international draft is “inevitable” is so potentially significant. And why some Mariners fans have been concerned about how the changes in international signings instituted in the latest collective bargaining agreement will affect the Mariners, who under the leadership of vice president of international operations Bob Engle have been among the most effective teams in baseball in finding talent around the world.
In a nutshell, there will be a Signing Bonus Pool, a portion of which can be traded. And teams that exceed their signing bonus pool — $2.9 million next year, according to accounts — will be penalized with a tax, or more, including loss of the right to provide any player in the next signing period with a bonus in excess of $250,000.
Considering how global the game has become, it’s going to be interesting to see how the new rules affect signings. In the minor-league section of the Mariner guide, listing every minor-leaguer in the organization (they all report on March 3), 20 different countries are represented. There are more American players (120) than from any other country, but there are more non-Americans (143) than Americans.
According to my count, the countries represented most frequently are the Dominican Republic (54 players) and Venezuela (50). No surprise there — those countries have long been baseball hotbeds and have yielded scores of major-league players, including some of the biggest superstars in the game.
But the Mariners have a sprinking of players from some non-traditional baseball places, like Germany (RHP Daniel Thieben), South Africa (RHP Dylan Unsworth and RHP Dylan De Meyer), Netherlands (OF Kalian Sams, LHP Scott Ronnenbergh, RHP Lars Huijer — but no longer, tragically, Greg Halman, murdered during the offseason), El Salvador (LHP Kevin Quintanilla, RHP Danny Cruz), Nicaragua (RHP Erasmo Ramirez, RHP Hector Hidalgo, RHP Jose Validiva), Colombia (RHP Ivan Julio, RHP Jose Torres, IF Diego Mina), Brazil (IF Pedro Okuda, RHP Thyago Viera, IF Felipe Burin), Aruba (IF Reginald Lampe), Curacao (OF Raysheron Michel, IF Gianfranco Wawoe) and U.S. Virgin Islands (OF Jabari Blash, RHP Richard White, by way of Germany).
There are also players from Taiwan, South Korea, Cuba, Canada, Mexico and Panama.