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Monday, December 01, 2008

Baseball in the Dominican

I've had an interest over the past few years in what MLB is doing in the Dominican Republic, good and bad. This article seems to highlight a bit of both, and tells the story of how a kid named Sadid Frias was recently signed by the Pirates. Here's one passage:
The initial sign of change came in May 2007, when owner Bob Nutting reacted to learning about the state of the program with a visit to the Dominican and, ultimately, ordered the building of a new $5 million academy that should open in May of next year. Four months after the trip, Nutting fired Littlefield -- partly because of the Latin American failures -- and replaced him with a new team president, Frank Coonelly, and general manager, Neal Huntington, who have nearly tripled Gayo's signing budget, from $700,000 to $2 million.
One of the most striking changes to the Reds' recent efforts to get better, which seems to mirror the Pirates', is the massive increase in the money they are spending in the Dominican. It sounds like a lot of money, but if even one of those guys pans out as just an average major league player, the initial investment shelled out this year will bring a net return.

This offseason, the going rate for wins above replacement on the free agent market should be close to $5 million. The average big leaguer is worth 2 wins above replacement, or $10 million. The first three years a team controls a player in the big leagues, they pay him close to minimum salary. So, that's roughly $30 million in production that a team does not have to pay for on the free agent market, from one average player, in just the first three years they are under team control.