Baseball’s international signing period for 2023 opens Sunday, which means this would be a good time to see which clubs have most effectively tapped into this critical talent pipeline. We asked The Athletic’s baseball writers to name each team’s best international free agent signing of the last decade. The answers reveal which teams have done well, perhaps a reflection of an investment in scouting (or even a willingness to lavish sizable deals on players who had already established themselves as stars overseas). The answers also reveal which franchises have some work to do.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Jazz Chisholm
Arizona’s international efforts have ramped up under the current regime, but it takes years for that to bear fruit. As such, the organization’s best international signing of the last 10 years can be credited to the Dave Stewart administration, which inked shortstop prospect Jazz Chisholm for $200,000 out of the Bahamas in 2015. Chisholm’s major-league career has just begun, although he’s already earned an All-Star nod at second base. Yes, it was with the Marlins, but trading Chisholm in 2019 allowed current general manager Mike Hazen to acquire ace Zac Gallen, who has been and should continue to be a perennial Cy Young Award candidate for years to come. — Zach Buchanan
Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuña Jr.
Ronald Acuña Jr. wasn’t ranked among the top 30 international prospects in the 2014 class when the Braves signed the young Venezuelan for $100,000, which was twice as much as the next-largest bonus he was offered, from the Royals. Four years later, a 20-year-old Acuña was a near-unanimous choice for NL Rookie of the Year over Juan Soto, and now he’s a three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner who’s regarded as one of the top young players in baseball. A torn ACL in July 2021 is the only thing that’s managed thus far to stall his otherwise steady ascent. — David O’Brien
Baltimore Orioles: César Prieto
The Orioles ignored the international market for more than a decade under owner Peter Angelos. That philosophy changed in 2018, when his sons took over and hired general manager Mike Elias and international director Koby Perez. The organization is setting signing-bonus records annually now, but most of their acquisitions are at the low levels of the minors. The exception is infielder César Prieto, a 23-year-old Cuban defector who signed last year for $650,000. Prieto tore through High A (.340/.381/.619) in 25 games and spent the rest of 2022 at Double A, where he slashed .255/.296/.348. He’ll likely start the year at Double A, but should push toward Norfolk once there’s an opening at second, shortstop or third base. — Dan Connolly
Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers
Rafael Devers signed for $1.5 million as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in August 2013 and debuted when he was just 20 years old in late 2017. He’s been the team’s Opening Day third baseman every year since. In…
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