Oakland lands No. 4 overall prospect, four other international prospects
By Jesse Sanchez
The A's on Saturday signed five international prospects, including one of most intriguing players on the market.
Lazaro "Lazarito" Armenteros has found a home.
According to industry sources, Oakland and Armenteros, who is ranked No. 4 on MLB.com's Top 30 Prospect List, agreed to terms for $3 million.
Lazarito, who became eligible to sign in February, is one of the most intriguing and impressive prospects in this year's international class despite some off-field distractions that included a change in representation after his former agent allegedly received a death threat. He has the potential to be a five-tool player and is expected to improve on his overall skill set once he enters the team's academy.
"I am very happy and so grateful to Oakland," Lazarito said. "A lot has happened, but I'm the type of person that doesn't like to look back on the past. Instead, I'm going forward. My goal is to make it to the Major Leagues. My entire family is very happy. This is a special day for us."
The club has also agreed to terms with 16-year-old Dominican shortstops Yerdeluis Vargas and Marcos Brito for $1.5 million and $1.1 million, respectively. Vargas is ranked No. 21. Brito is ranked No. 23. In addition, the club came to terms with third baseman George Bell ($500,000) -- the son of the former American League MVP Award winner of the same name -- and center fielder Kevin Richards ($600,000), both of whom are also from the Dominican.
"To say we are excited to add this level of talent to our Minor League system would be an understatement", said A's assistant general manager, pro scouting and player personnel, Dan Feinstein. "Our International scouts work tirelessly throughout the year, and it's great to see those efforts rewarded."
Feinstein said during a conference call Saturday that Lazarito has the kind of power that should be familiar to A's fans.
"From a physical standpoint, I think [Yoenis] Cespedes is a fairly good comp," said Feinstein. "I don't want to raise the expectations too high, but when I first saw [Lazarito], I saw a young Frank Thomas in him as well.
"He's probably the most physically imposing young player we've seen in a long time. It's a rare combination of size and strength of a player this young."
Some scouts consider Vargas the best defensive shortstop from the Dominican Republic in this year's class. At the plate, he's known for having a quick bat and an easy, fluid swing. On defense, Vargas has smooth actions and has shown a strong arm. He plays with confidence and shows a high baseball IQ.
Brito made a name for himself as a quality hitting prospect with his short, slight-upstroke swing through the hitting zone. He has a short frame and a medium build with some physical projection. He's shown soft hands and solid fundamentals defensively.
The A's did not confirm the bonus information.
In accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team is allotted a $700,000 base and a bonus pool with four slot values based on the team's record in 2015 for the international signing period, which started on Saturday. Oakland's overall pool total for this year's signing period is $3,818,700. The five additions Saturday were for a total of $6.7 million.
Teams that exceed the pools by 0 to 5 percent have to pay a 100 percent tax, and teams that exceed the pools by 5 to 10 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $500,000 during the next signing period and also have to pay a 100 percent tax on the pool overage. Teams that exceed the pools by 10 to 15 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next signing period and have to pay a 100 percent tax on the pool overage.
In the most severe penalty, teams that exceed the pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods, in addition to paying a 100 percent tax on the pool overage.
"It's safe to see we've had a renewed emphasis on procuring as much talent as possible in the international market," said Feinstein. "We were more excited this morning when this came together. We were prepared to go over our pool for the right players. We felt it was worth it for this level of talent.
"It was certainly advantageous that a number of teams were ostensibly restricted from signing the top international talent. So we felt this was kind of a unique opportunity for us."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.