So the first three seasons saw us testing the waters and developing the learning curve in regards to the International players. What did we learn and how was that applied in the next three seasons? Were better decisions made or did we just become a little looser with the strings of the pocketbooks (or maybe wallets would be better)?
Big bonuses became the norm with 9 players getting something bigger than $8M. Those players: Odalis Tatis (Iowa City Mancs) $14M, Wille Rivera (Scottsdale Four Seasons) $12.4M, Mariano Espinoza (Nashville Quitars) $9.9M, Jesus Julio (Rochester Redwings) $9.6M, David Matos (SF Balco Boys) $9.0M, Cristobal Moreno (Philadelphia Independence) $8.5M, Pascual Tapies (Seattle Depressions) $8.1M, Matty Oliva (Monterrey Sultanes) $8.1M, and Olmeldo Duran (Honolulu Momboosa) $8.0M. Five pitchers and three shortstops comprised the bulk of the players, but who went on to become a star?
Odalis Tatis (SS) spent his early career with the Iowa City (et al) franchise before leaving as a free agent to join the Las Vegas Sell Outs. In his 17 year career he was a defensive standout up the middle playing SS and CF.
Hits: 2245 Runs: 973 HR: 163 RBI: 781 BA: .294 Fldg: .969 (SS)/ .994 (CF)
Willie Rivera spent his career moving from city to city and filling many roles on each pitching staff. Never considered a dominant pitcher, Willie was content to be a role player. But at $5800 per inning in signing bonuses was he really worth it?
Wins: 110 Save: 15 K: 1449 WHIP: 1.37 ERA: 4.21
Mariano Espinoza spent his time with just two franchises showing that his play had the kind of staying power we seldom see in "real" baseball. Solid defense and a reliable bat were his trademark throughout his 18 year career that was highlighted by four Silver Slugger awards and three WS Rings, but no HoF nomination as yet.
Hits: 2861 Runs: 1873 HR: 303 RBI: 1204 SB: 689 BA: .303 Fldg: .965 (SS)
The remaining six players I will leave to the reader to look into and decide their fate as Boom or Bust.
The season the flood gates opened and six players received bonuses greater than $10M! What the hell were we thinking, or did we finally figure this thing out? The top five player bonuses went to Carlos Mercado 1B (Nashville Quitars) $18.1M, Victor Carrasco SS (Rochester Redwings) $16.5M, Carlos Pinzon 2B (SF Balco Boys) $16.2M, Deivi Manual 1B (Fargo Forgetaboutit) $15M, Gary Smyth SS (Minnesota North Stars) $12.5M. Huge numbers for some but what did these players bring to their franchises?
Carlos Mercado has been one of the dominant power hitters in this league with 867 home runs in a career that is still in progress. Assured a first ballot entrance into the HoF this is one player that definitely gets the BOOM status.
Hits: 3248 Runs: 1918 HR: 867 RBI: 2288 BA: .328 Fldg: .997 (1b)
Victor Carrasco spent 11 seasons in Rochester before testing the free agent waters. Three Gold Gloves, 2 Silver Sluggers and 1 WS Ring highlight a career that has not yet ended for this utility infielder.
Hits: 2777 Runs: 1526 HR: 369 RBI: 1525 BA: .299 Fldg: .969 (SS)
Carlos Pinzon signed with the Balco Boys as an 18 year old phenom and is still proving his worth today in Toronto. A five time AS at second base, Pinzon also adds three Silver Slugger awards and a WS Ring to his resume.
Hits: 2789 Runs: 1498 HR: 207 RBI: 1128 BA: .329 Fldg: .980 (2b)
Manuel and Smyth are also still active with the jury still out on whether they were well worth the money they signed for in season 5.
Maybe we got scared or maybe the overall IFA talent pool became shallow, but whatever the reason we saw the money being spent drop off in season 6. Only two players received bonuses greater than $10M (the new basement) and both were pitchers.
Davis Arias signed with the Nashville Quitars for a cool $10.5M bonus. After two minor league seasons he became a reliable back of the order pitcher before moving to the bullpen late in his career. Still taking the mound with the Beet Farmers, Arias has proven to be an asset to the teams he has played for, but was he worth that bonus?
Wins: 162 K: 1749 Win %: .620 WHIP: 1.34 ERA: 4.27
Augie Huang was 18 when he signed a lucrative contract that included a $10.1M bonus with Minnesota. After nine seasons and two WS Rings he left via free agency but never seemed to produce the same results he did in the Land of 1000 Lakes. Still taking the mound south of the border in Mexico City, Huang has not lived up to the hype when he signed but continues to be counted on to take the mound every fifth day.
Wins: 123 K: 1699 WHIP: 1.49 ERA: 5.09
Coming next: Seasons 7-9