As an ever-expanding firestorm of controversy continued to surround the Texas Rangers in light of media reports shedding new light on the nature of the ballclub's acceptance of financial assistance from Major League Baseball, one of baseball's most formidable appropriators of amateur talent affirmed its intention to stay the course by investing millions of dollars into Latin America at the dawn of baseball's international signing period.
According to a major league source with "direct knowledge of the situation (via Gordon Edes of Yahoo! Sports), Major League Baseball did indeed advance Hicks Sports Group millions of dollars within the last week -- albeit reportedly not with the specific intention of subsidizing the ballclub's payroll obligations, which the Rangers did meet without issue -- and will continue to financially buttress the Rangers until the seemingly inevitable sale of majority ownership in the franchise is completed.
While the timetable for selling the Rangers will almost certainly not be as prolonged as that of the Cubs, the process is not immediate; prospective ownership groups will require time to assemble viable bids and it seems improbable that the sale of the team would be completed before the end of the regular season, let alone final approval by the league of any sale.
Owner Tom Hicks' insistence that his Liverpool FC interests would not materially affect those of the Rangers or the Dallas Stars is beginning to appear increasingly shaky, although his monetary stake in the Premier League's most successful football team isn't the lone source of his liquidity problems; Hicks significantly over-leveraged himself and is now feeling the full brunt of his improvident financial decisions.
Against that backdrop of financial uncertainty, however, Texas has unyieldingly remained a prominent force in Latin America, pursuing multiple highly regarded prospects in the months leading up to July 2nd -- including, but certainly not limited to, Dominican shortstop Miguel Sano (the class's consensus top overall prospect, whom the Pirates remain the front-runners to sign) and outfielder Guillermo Pimentel and Venezuelan southpaw Juan Urbina, the son of former Rangers reliever Ugueth Urbina. One baseball source informed Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the Rangers outlaid "at least $2.5 million" to sign multiple international prospects on Thursday.
Composing perhaps one-third of that sum should be the impending signing bonus of Curacaon right-hander/shortstop Jurickson Profar, whom MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan confirmed as being Rangers property late Thursday evening. Although more highly regarded by scouts for his pitching aptitude than his positional potential, Profar has expressed a disinclination for pitching -- reasoning, according to one source, that it places "too much stress on his arm" -- and is believed to have previously demanded a seven-figure signing bonus, further compressing the market for his services.
Profar (5' 11", 165 lb.) is immensely gifted in the physical sense, equipped with a low-90s heater that has been clocked as high as 93 mph and what industry publication Baseball America deemed a 55-grade slider on the 20-to-80 scouting scale (video of Profar pitching is embedded below for your perusal). There's no indication yet as to whether the Rangers will yield to Profar's demands to ditch the pitching experiment and begin his baseball dream as a middle infielder, although he wields the defensive ability, speed and arm necessary to field the position quite capably; significant concern apparently exists over the adequacy of his hitting ability, however, which could ultimately derail his career as a position player if the bat doesn't pan out:
[Direct link available here.]
While Profar is expected to receive a signing bonus in the vicinity of $750,000 to $850,000, two fundamental aspects of the Latin American talent market must be understood. First, the entire process is such an inherent crapshoot that it can be sufficiently argued that teams are better off signing 10 teenaged prospects at $200,000 apiece than a single teenaged prospect at $2,000,000, since it is so unfathomably difficult to forecast the ultimate upside of 16-year-old baseball players and even more difficult to differentiate between similarly talented individuals. Risk diversification at work.
The second aspect, as described very cogently by Baseball Time in Arlington's Jason Parks early Friday morning: "Bonus money is not necessarily indicative of projected talent ... The Rangers will secure a very strong haul and will continue to stock the farm with high-ceiling talent." The Guillermo Pimentel debacle -- which still merits a slightly closer look, but will be postponed until another morning -- obviously hurts in the sense that Texas now seems very unlikely to secure the second-best outfielder in the Latin American class, but a seven-figure signing bonus is absolutely no assurance of future productivity at any professional level, be it short-season ball or the majors.
People are often bewitched by the six- and seven-figure signing bonuses often associated with prominent Latin American talent, but budgets are finite and the inability to sign one bonus baby can ultimately work to a team's advantage if that money is intelligently redirected. Given that the Rangers are the de facto front-runners to ink two more high-priced amateurs, those being talented Venezuelan shortstop Luis Sardinas (tremendous defensive tools; reportedly seeking a seven-figure signing bonus) and Dominican right-hander Leonardo Perdomo (high-80s fastball which projects well and the makings of two solid secondary pitches; reportedly seeking a high six-figure signing bonus), it's safe to surmise that the Rangers' international crop will be ranked among baseball's best several months down the line.
Whether that will translate into major league wins in six, seven, or eight years is another matter altogether.