If you remember, they were the team that sparked the interest in Japanese players by signing Hideo Nomo. They were first into Korea- for Park. They were also first into Taiwan for Chin-Feng Chen.
Ever since his being named to head all phases of scouting, international and domestic, Logan White has made innumerable trips to Japan, sizing up the players that might become available there. It would appear that righthander Hiroki Kuruda is at the top of any list.
The other overseas location where White has spent considerable time is the Dominican Republic. Down there, though, the cash outlay has been modest. That was also true to get Park back since he's fallen onto hard times in recent years. It certainly won't be true if they're serious contenders for Kuruda for the competition for his signature promises to be brisk.
In the Dominican, though, the days of handing out $2-plus million as they did for Joel Guzman or $1 million- plus for Willie Aybar, aren't to return soon for White was given only a small budget to work with.
The buscas certainly know that. They're people who attach themselves to a promising player when he's very young in order to steer him to agents and/or major league teams when he becomes old enough to sign. In return, they get a cut from his deal.
And if a player is worth a million or so, they don't send him the Dodgers way anymore. "We don't even get to talk to them," says White. "They know we won't pay that."
The Dodgers signed one Dominican to a six-figure contract this year- third baseman Pedro Baez- and they almost lost him.
Baez was brought to this country where White worked him out, liked what he saw and agreed upon a deal with his agent. But when they got ready to sign Baez, they discovered he had returned home.
When they located him, the agent told them that in the meantime the Red Sox had topped the Dodger offer. But, he said, he'd agreed with LA and felt honor-bound to stick by that agreement. "The Red Sox and the Yankees do that sort of thing," said White. "If they want a player, they'll simply top your offer. In this case, I appreciate what the agent did."
They thought so much of Baez that they brought him to the these shores to start his career, forgoing the usual indoctrination in the Dominican Summer League. He turned in a fine performance, hitting .274 with promising power, finishing second in the Gulf Coast RBI race with 39. He also looked very capable in the field with good coordination and range and an excellent arm.
As for the team down in the Dominican, when the scouts began looking over the potential players they could sign, they discovered some likely pitchers but no hitters of any great regard. "So I told them to look for arms and fielding ability," White recalls.
They turned up some pitchers that did a nice job, particularly,righthanders Carlos Frias and Edisaul Pimentel and lefthander Bolivar Medina, all regarded as genuine prospects. As for the fielders, "They have some who can really handle a glove," White noted. "I really feel it was our best-fielding farm team below the Double A level."
Another major accomplishment in the Dominican was the appointment of Elvio Jimenez to be the top man on the scene since neither White nor Ralph Avila are down there fulltime. (Avila lives in Miami.) "Elvio has really shaped things up," White asserts.
Since July 1, the date on which all players who have reached the age of 16 (or will during the next months) are eligible to sign, the Dodgers have inked five players- righthanders Rubby De La Rosa and Jose Dominguez, lefthander Beyler Fructoso and shortstops Marco Crispin and Bladimir Franco.
Since De La Rosa is 18, he saw some service with the Dominican Dodgers toward the end of the season; the others are younger so will debut in 2008.
The prize of the lot, the Dodgers feel, is clearly Dominguez, just 16. He, they feel, is precocious enough to start his career over here as Baez did but, considering his age, they may hold him back in the Dominican for awhile.
In the meantime, White has cast his eyes on the Far East, checking out the Taiwanese junior teams, too. With Park returning, can the next Nomo or Chin-lung Hu be far behind?
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