Jairo Beras, Texas Ranger.
You can’t base your judgment of the signing of Jairo Beras solely on the money.
Texas paid roughly the same signing bonus to John Danks ($2.1 million) and Vincent Sinisi ($2.07 million) in 2003. Drew Meyer got $1.875 million in 2002, though he had a big league career, something that Scott Heard, paid $1.475 million two years earlier, was never able to say, even though the idea was that the young catcher might eventually succeed 28-year-old Pudge Rodriguez, who had signed as a 16-year-old out of Puerto Rico for $20,000, if you don’t count the $12,000 college allowance just in case baseball didn’t work out.
Mike Olt signed for $717,300 in 2010, less than Jake Skole ($1.557 million) and Kellin Deglan ($1 million) and Luke Jackson ($1.545 million), each of whom went earlier in the first round than Olt, but also less than Justin Grimm ($825,000), who lasted until Round Five.
Then there was Dominican righthander Jovanny Cedeno, who a dozen years ago (before shoulder injuries robbed his career) was the most promising pitching prospect the Rangers had developed in close to a decade. An instant minor league sensation, Cedeno had signed in July 1997 for $4,500, less than half of what Texas gave junior college shortstop Spike Lundberg the same year to give pitching a try.
To put things in context, the Major League minimum salary in 1997 was $150,000, or about one-third of what it is now ($480,000).
Cedeno signed for a fraction of what Sinisi and Meyer and Heard and another hundred Rangers minor leaguers you’ve never heard of were paid to sign.
Jairo Beras was paid as much as one thousand Jovanny Cedeno’s.
Forget about the money. The Beras money was an issue for the four and a half months that MLB spent reviewing the signing of the Dominican outfielder, because if the $4.5 million agreement had been voided, he would have gotten a lot less (if held to be too young to be eligible until this month, meaning he’d have been subject to teams’ $2.9 million cap under the new CBA) or presumably a lot more (had he been ruled a free agent not subject to the July 2012 cap and opened up to a new league-wide bidding).
The money no longer matters. It didn’t matter when Ronald Guzman ($3.45 million) and Jordan Akins ($350,000) stood out together at Fall Instructs 2011 and spring training 2012. It doesn’t make Rougned Odor ($425,000) less of a prospect than Luis Sardinas ($1.2 million), and isn’t so much as a bullet point for Jurickson Profar ($1.55 million), whose tear toward the big leagues would be viewed just the same if he’d signed for $100,000, or $4 million, rather than the same money Skole would sign for a year later.
What matters is that Thad Levine has said Beras probably would have been a top 10 pick in June if Dominican players were subject to the draft – even though Beras would have been only a high school junior had he been schooled stateside.
And that Kevin Goldstein says Beras would have been the number one talent in this year’s July 2 class if he’d been held ineligible to sign beforehand.
And that Jason Parks suggests Beras, even though he won’t be allowed to play in a minor league game until next July, immediately figures in as a top 5 prospect in the Rangers system – which may not sound like much until you remind yourself that behind Profar and Olt in this system are players like Guzman, Odor, Leonys Martin, Martin Perez, Cody Buckel, Jorge Alfaro, and Joey Gallo.
It matters that Don Welke, one of the game’s elite talent evaluators, said a few weeks ago that Beras is not only built like a young Josh Hamilton and blessed with some of the same raw tools and athleticism, but is also, at age 17, capable of assaulting a 50-year scout’s senses during a batting practice session like Hamilton has been known to do.
And that the kid has apparently been wearing number 32 while working out at the Rangers’ Dominican Academy in Boca Chica, waiting on MLB’s ruling.
Beras won’t be able to play this summer in the Arizona League, where the Rangers’ lineup features teenagers Gallo, Guzman, Nomar Mazara, Lewis Brinson, Jamie Jarmon, Nick Williams, and Luis Marte. But as Baseball America’s Ben Badler points out, he wouldn’t have played stateside this summer anyway (compare Guzman and Mazara last summer), and the complex leagues start playing around June 20 each year, so practically speaking the year-long suspension that MLB has handed down for age misrepresentation will end up keeping Beras out of games he would have otherwise played in for less than two weeks.
Badler tweets that the result of MLB’s investigation “is a great outcome for Beras and Texas” and that, “[i]n reality, the suspension is irrelevant.”
The Rangers were not punished, unless you consider their decision to sit out this year’s July 2 market as they awaited the results of the league’s investigation (the duration of which Goldstein called “an embarrassment for MLB”). The Beras commitment doesn’t cut into the $2.9 million cap that Texas has under the CBA to spend internationally this summer, but most of the key players in that market have now found teams, including shortstop Wendell Rijo, a player reportedly of interest to the Rangers and whose knee injury reduced his price tag to a modest $625,000 paid last week by Boston. Badler suggests Texas might hang back for now and try to hit on some “pop-up guys” between now and next July 2.
But the absence of sanctions is less of a story than the reward that this resolution represents. You have to dig hard in the Rangers’ media guide to find the names of Danilo Troncoso, Roberto Aquino, and Paul Kruger, but it was their legwork that led to the ultimate opportunity that Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan and a hungry ownership group got behind.
Troncoso, the organization’s East Dominican area scout, is a Rangers lifer, having been around when Pudge signed. Among the players Troncoso has signed are 40-man roster member Miguel De Los Santos and recent roster member Fabio Castillo, former big leaguer Wilson Heredia, current Dominican Summer League hitting coach Guillermo Mercedes (whom the Rangers traded for left-handed reliever Dennis Cook in 1995), and Jovanny Cedeno.
Aquino, who reports to Director of International Scouting Mike Daly and Senior Director of Player Personnel A.J. Preller in his role as Latin America Crosschecker, was hired away from the Braves before the 2011 season. Among the players he signed for Atlanta was an overlooked Dominican kid name Neftali Feliz, who didn’t sign until 11 months after he was eligible, agreeing to a modest $100,000 bonus from the Braves, who beat Boston and Pittsburgh. That was in 2005, a year before Phillies Special Assistant to the GM Don Welke spotted him throwing easy gas on the back fields in Florida and tucked his name away, a year and a half before the Rangers hired Welke back, and two years before Texas insisted on Feliz’s inclusion in one of baseball’s greatest trades over any measure of time.
Kruger was promoted in January from Assistant/International Operations to Assistant/Player Development and International Scouting, but he delayed the promotion to stay back in the Dominican for an extra month to work on the Beras case, while the rest of the organization got things rolling in Surprise.
Troncoso, Aquino, and Kruger move on, grinding it to find the next Beras, the next Feliz.
It’s unclear what Daniels meant on Thursday when he said he felt the club could be creative in working through any potential delays in Beras’s development track, but the 17-year-old will stay in the Dominican for the summer (though he won’t play for the organization’s Dominican Summer League team) before participating in the Rangers’ programs in Surprise for Fall Instructs, spring training, and extended spring.
When he shows up in Surprise in September, Beras may be issued the same number 32 he’s been wearing in Boca Chica. He may choose to wear it all the way up the chain, and just as there are no guarantees that his development will take him where Cedeno and Heard never got, there is no guarantee that, if Beras does reach Arlington, Hamilton will still be around to force him to pick a different number.
That part is about the money. The next three and a half months for Hamilton are about helping Texas win baseball games. After that, the money matters, and right now I’m not sure how much more likely it is that Hamilton will be in Texas four years from now than Beras.
As of yesterday, Beras’s immediate future is a lot more clear than Hamilton’s.
There’s a lot to dream on here. This is an organization whose farm system, a year ago, was light on corner bats and power potential in general, but that has since spent more than $15 million to add Gallo and Guzman and Mazara and now Beras, a player whose march to Arlington won’t get underway officially for another 353 days. It will be easier to exercise patience at this point than it was over the last four and a half months, but we’re now authorized to start hoping that Beras develops with the force and fury of a thousand Jovanny Cedeno’s, and that the greatest adversity on his path to the big leagues will be one that’s already behind him.