International Spending Needs To Be A Priority For New Los Angeles Dodgers Owners

Baseball America recently released the list of each team’s international spending for 2011, and it should come as no shock that the Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t make a ton of noise. However, not only are they dead last, but they’re dead last by a lot.

Baseball America has compiled estimates of each team’s international amateur signing bonus expenditures in 2011, excluding Cuban defectors and Japanese professionals.

The Texas Rangers rank 1st with a massive $12.83 million spent, while the Chicago White Sox rank 29th with $0.78 million in contracts. The Dodgers? A healthy $0.18 million doled out. Wonderful.

Sadly, that isn’t just a 2011 thing either, as the Dodgers ranked dead last in 2010 international spending as well. The Seattle Mariners lead the way last year with $6.47 million in contracts, while the White Sox were in 29th again with $0.35 million spent. The Dodgers managed to keep it closer that year, clocking in at $0.31 million, but still in 30th.

Yes, those numbers are correct. Over the past two years, the Dodgers have not spent a half million in funds on the international market. Of course, that makes total sense, because why would they want to allocate money towards the farm system that carried the team early in Ned Colletti‘s tenure when they can give all that money to the Garret Andersons of the world?

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Here’s the thing though, international signings are important to having a quality farm system.

We can measure the influence of the draft grades and international signings on farm system rankings by calculating the correlation coefficient for each both, where an r = 1.0 would indicate a perfect correlation, while an r = 0 would indicate no relationship.

Talent pool r
International: 0.43
Draft grades: 0.23

The results seem counter-intuitive. International prospects account for just 24 percent of players in the Prospect Handbook. Despite the growth of baseball in Latin American countries and other areas across the world, the United States (and thus, the draft) is still the predominant source of talent at the minor league and the major league level. No team can truly build a farm system through international free agency, and yet the number of international signings—even looking strictly at volume, regardless of quality or current organization—is a better indicator of farm system strength than the quality of a team’s recent drafts.

The more I think about it, though, the more I think the numbers make sense. Ultimately I believe the results mainly boil down to this: there is a larger spread in the ability of teams to sign and develop international prospects compared to the ability of teams to draft good players.

So as much as Logan White has taken some heat recently for the deteriorating farm system, he actually deserves some credit for managing to keep the Dodgers farm system in the middle of the road with almost literally zero help from the international side of things and a draft budget that has ranked 24th from 2007 to 2011.

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As a franchise that used to pride itself on its international presence, today the Dodgers have become a complete non-factor in that area, as they not only have zero big ticket signings anymore, but hardly any signings at all. As such, it should come as no surprise that the Dominican Summer League team is essentially a talent wasteland.

I’m not advocating that the incoming Dodgers owners blindly throw money at the problem, nor do I think they should go out and sign every hyped prospect, but the team’s current presence in the market is almost literally zero, which is unacceptable. Given the correlation between international activity and farm system health, the current path is a significant detriment to the franchise’s winning potential, and winning is the priority … right?

About Chad Moriyama

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