Every MLB team’s best international signing of the last decade

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 his five and a half seasons, he’s etched himself into Red Sox record books in several categories and since the beginning of 2019, Devers leads the majors in doubles (149) and extra-base hits (264) and leads the AL in hits (591) and total bases (1,078). Earlier this month, the Red Sox reached an agreement on an 11-year, $331 million deal with Devers, the largest contract in team history. — Jen McCaffrey

Chicago Cubs: Eloy Jiménez

The debate is probably between Eloy Jiménez and Gleyber Torres, neither of whom has taken a single big-league at-bat with the Cubs. Both were traded at the height of the Cubs’ most recent string of success and both have been generally strong performers when healthy. But it’s Jiménez’s power bat and potential to slug among the best in baseball that sets him apart in this writer’s eyes. The trade that sent him to the White Sox along with Dylan Cease and brought José Quintana to the Cubs will be one baseball fans in Chicago will bring up for years. Maybe a 2023 breakout from Cristian Hernández will slightly ease Cubs fans’ pain. — Sahadev Sharma

Eloy Jiménez. (Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today)

Chicago White Sox: José Abreu

This sure has the potential to be awkward. Recent tumult aside, Fernando Tatis Jr. has more than a puncher’s chance to accumulate the most career WAR of any international player signed by the Sox during the past 10 years, and he’s accumulating it all in San Diego after being dealt for the last gasps of James Shields in 2016. Luis Robert has the tools to maybe match him long-term, but similar issues staying healthy and less realized production. Since the Sox immediately knew what they had in Robert and made him a franchise centerpiece, maybe he is the best signing. Or we could make this simple. José Abreu was signed in late October 2013 at age 26, giving us the benefit of looking at the bulk of his MLB career in hindsight. Two RBI titles, five 30-homer seasons, three All-Star teams, three Silver Sluggers and an MVP award. That’ll do. The only awkward part there is that he plays for the defending champion Astros now. — James Fegan

Cincinnati Reds: Elly De La Cruz

It may be odd to say a player who has fewer than 50 games above A ball is the best signing of the last 10 years, but Elly De La Cruz’s ascension to the top of prospect lists after signing for $65,000 in 2018 shows just how much promise there is in the 21-year-old switch-hitting shortstop. — C. Trent Rosecrans

Cleveland Guardians: Yandy Diáz

It’s actually astounding how little Cleveland’s franchise has benefitted from its international signings, especially considering they’ve contended for much of the last decade. José Ramírez, obviously, was a home-run pickup, but he signed in 2009, out of range for this prompt. The only international player who signed with the organization within the last 10 years and has totaled at least 0.5 fWAR with Cleveland: Oscar Gonzalez. It seems as though strides have been made on the international front in recent years, with George Valera, Brayan Rocchio and Angel Martinez among the club’s top prospects. Yandy Diáz logged 0.4 fWAR with Cleveland before the team jettisoned him to Tampa — where he has blossomed — in a deal that brought Carlos Santana back to Cleveland (oh, and Jake Bauers, too). — Zack Meisel

Colorado Rockies: Ezequiel Tovar

The Rockies don’t tend to be major players in the international market, choosing instead to pick around the edges looking for lottery tickets. Big bonus spending on teenaged free agents is not their style, not until last year at least. And once in a while, they find an undervalued player who makes it. Righthander Antonio Senzatela, then 16, was a nice get out of Venezuela in 2011 for a $250,000 bonus. Within the last decade, they signed shortstop Ezequiel Tovar, also 16 and from Venezuela, for $800,000 in 2018. He became one of their top prospects and debuted late last season. The verdict on his major league career will wait, but Tovar is set to become Colorado’s No. 1 shortstop. — Nick Groke

Detroit Tigers: Gregory Soto

The Tigers’ past decade on the international market has been unbelievably dry. Gregory Soto (recently traded to the Phillies) was their only productive big leaguer in a generation of international prospects. Their last true international win was Willy Adames, who signed in 2012. He was traded to the Rays in 2014 and has gone on to post 15.5 bWAR in the majors. — Cody Stavenhagen

Gregory Soto. (Kim Klement / USA Today)

Houston Astros: Framber Valdez

The Astros have had significant success in the international market in recent years. It is a big reason why the organization has been able to lose players like Gerrit Cole and George Springer in free agency and not miss a beat. Cristian Javier, Yurí Gurriel, Luis García and José Urquidy were all signed as amateur free agents within the past 10 years. But the best of the bunch is Framber Valdez, who overcame countless rejections to finally land a pro contract with the Astros in 2015 and has quickly become one of the elite left-handed starters in baseball. — Melissa Lockard

Kansas City Royals: Esteury Ruiz

The Royals won the World Series in 2015 with Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura and Kelvin Herrera playing major roles, but the club hasn’t turned an international signing into a regular player in more than a decade. The oft-injured Adalberto Mondesi, for instance, was signed in 2011. The best signing is probably Dominican infielder turned outfielder Esteury Ruiz, who was signed in 2015. Ruiz was traded to the Padres in 2017 and was on the move a lot in the last year, eventually ending up in Oakland. One other name to watch: 22-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Maikel García. — Rustin Dodd

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani

This is an easy one for the Angels. Roberto Baldoquin has to be the choice. I kid, and apologize for that, Angels fans. The real answer is Shohei Ohtani. The Angels haven’t had much success in developing international free agents. But Ohtani is clearly the outlier. The modern-day Babe Ruth. One of the most unique and talented players of his time, or all time. There’s no one close to him on the list of Angels signings to choose from. Ohtani has also come at a relative bargain, with 2023 his first significant payday. The question is how long he’ll stay in Anaheim. — Sam Blum

Los Angeles Dodgers: Yordan Alvarez

Julio Urías missed this cutoff, having been signed in 2012. That leaves the Dodgers’ most notable international signing of the last decade as a reminder of one of their few major whiffs on the trade front in that period as well. Yordan Alvarez never played a game in the organization before being dealt to Houston for reliever Josh Fields, but has since emerged as one of the most fearsome hitters in the sport. He’s already accumulated 13.6 bWAR in four seasons despite largely serving as a designated hitter and missing nearly all of 2020, punctuating things with a top-3 finish for MVP last year and a titanic blast to help the Astros clinch a World Series win. It’s been a productive signing, even though the Dodgers surely wish that production came in their uniform. — Fabian Ardaya

Miami Marlins: Eury Pérez

The Marlins have a sizable heap of promising international prospects that would fit in this category. The jury is still out on them, but given the strides made in 2022 it feels appropriate to spotlight Eury Pérez here. The lanky fireballer towers over everyone who steps into the box against him. His 6-foot-9 frame makes it hard for even the likes of Reds star prospect Elly De La Cruz to get a good read on anything coming out of Pérez’s hand. He’s far from a one-trick pony, though. He couples his hard heater with three plus or better pitches. He’s also so poised that at 19 years old last season he outdid Double-A Southern League competitors who were on average five years older than him. — Maria Torres

Eury Pérez. (Photo courtesy of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos)

Milwaukee Brewers: Jackson Chourio

The answer here shows how unsuccessful many of the recent international signing classes have been for the Brewers and it also highlights just how good the player can be. It’s Jackson Chourio. The Brewers signed Chourio as a 16-year-old shortstop/center fielder from Venezuela in 2021. Already, he has skyrocketed atop Milwaukee’s prospect rankings. He has a shot to claim the top spot among prospects in baseball. In his age-18 season last year, Chourio slashed .288/.342/.538 with 20 home runs and 16 stolen bases. He split time mostly between the Class A levels, but he also appeared in six games for Double-A Biloxi. — Will Sammon

Minnesota Twins: Luis Arraez

Luis Arraez was far from a top prospect when he signed with the Twins for just $40,000 as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2013. He was 5-foot-nothing, with zero power and mediocre speed, and it wasn’t clear where he’d fit best defensively. Turns out, it didn’t really matter, as Arraez’s exceptional bat control and plate discipline got him to the big leagues in 2019. He’s a career .314 hitter in 389 major-league games after hitting .331 in the minors, and now he’s a 25-year-old All-Star and batting champion. — Aaron Gleeman

New York Mets: Andrés Giménez

The Mets signed Andrés Giménez for $1.2 million as part of their 2015 international signing class. In 2020, Giménez, a gifted infielder from Venezuela, finished seventh for NL Rookie of the Year. In January 2021, the Mets included Giménez in their trade package for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. With the Guardians last season, Giménez posted a terrific season: In 557 plate appearances, he had 17 home runs and a .837 OPS with 20 stolen bases and a 6.1 fWAR. For those curious, Amed Rosario, who was also part of that trade with Cleveland, signed during the cycle before the cutoff period for this exercise. — Will Sammon

New York Yankees: Oswald Peraza

New York signed the shortstop prospect out of Venezuela in 2016, and he’s quickly turned into one of the Yankees’ best overall prospects. Oswald Peraza was briefly called up at the end of this season and flashed enough at the plate and in the field to make those around the team believe he’s ready to have an opportunity to be the Yankees’ starting shortstop by opening day. An honorable mention should go to fellow Venezuelan Oswaldo Cabrera. The Yankees signed Cabrera when he was 16 years old for $100,000. Now the 23-year-old might become the team’s starting left fielder this season. — Chris Kirschner

Oakland Athletics: Jordan Díaz

Twenty-five years ago, the A’s had a strong pipeline of talent flowing from their international scouting efforts, which produced All-Stars like Miguel Tejada, Ramon Hernández, Angel Berroa and Santiago Casilla. Since then, the pipeline has run dry, first from lack of funds, and more recently from development not going as planned. Despite giving out large six-figure bonuses to players such as Lazaro Armenteros, Robert Puason and Pedro Pineda, the A’s biggest international signing success of the last decade has been Jordan Díaz, who signed out of Colombia for $275,000 in July 2016. Infielder Jordan Díaz had an .881 OPS in his age-21 season last year and made his major-league debut. He’s one of the best pure hitters in the A’s organization. — Melissa Lockard

Jordan Díaz. (Danne Braden / Midland RockHounds)

Pittsburgh Pirates: Rodolfo Castro

It’s a close race between infielders Rodolfo Castro and Ji Hwan Bae. Castro, 23, signed for $150,000 in October 2015 out of the Dominican Republic. He’s had brief stints in the majors the past two seasons and batted .224/.288/.419 with 16 homers. This year, he’ll go into spring training with a chance to win the starting job at second base. Bae, 23, originally was signed by the Braves, but joined the Pirates in 2018 for $1.25 million when the Braves were penalized for rule violations. Bae made his big league debut last summer and has a good chance to break camp with the Pirates this year. Castro has gotten a bit more big-league playing time and has more pop in his bat, so for now I’ll go with him — Rob Biertempfel

Philadelphia Phillies: Sixto Sánchez

He never threw a pitch in the majors for the Phillies, but Sixto Sánchez was one of the club’s best investments in the last decade. Sánchez cost only $35,000 to sign. He developed into a top prospect before he turned 19 and the Phillies used him as the centerpiece in a trade with Miami for J.T. Realmuto. The Phillies have had success in turning small-bonus international amateurs into prospects but not necessarily big-league talent. Sánchez, who last pitched in the majors in the 2020 postseason, is still only 24. But injuries have derailed him. — Matt Gelb

San Diego Padres: Emmanuel Clase

The Padres signed Emmanuel Clase for $125,000 in January 2015, and he spent three seasons in the low levels of the organization as a talented but erratic right-hander. Questions about his maturity encouraged San Diego to trade him for catcher Brett Nicholas in 2018. Over the last couple of years, Clase has made multiple teams regret moving on from him; since Texas sent him to Cleveland in a 2019 deal to acquire Corey Kluber, Clase has emerged as maybe the best reliever in baseball, wielding an absurd cutter that averages 100 mph. That pitch, along with a similarly elite slider, has helped the 24-year-old closer to a 1.47 ERA across his first two seasons with the Guardians. In 2022, Clase logged a 1.36 ERA while leading the majors in saves, appearances and games finished. — Dennis Lin

San Francisco Giants: Camilo Doval

Only two international free agents signed after 2013 have made the majors for the Giants: Camilo Doval and Kervin Castro. So the answer is Doval from a pure value standpoint. So, uh, the answer is Doval. And maybe the Giants should fix this.

The answer will almost certainly be Marco Luciano, though. Prospects are volatile, but it’s hard to see how someone with his bat speed and ability to stick up the middle of the diamond can’t have at least an average major-league career. Considering the last international player to get an at-bat with the Giants was Pablo Sandoval, who signed as a free agent in 2003, back when most people had dial-up modems, Luciano can’t come soon enough. — Grant Brisbee

Seattle Mariners: Julio Rodríguez

It took $1.75 million for the Mariners to sign outfielder Julio Rodríguez in 2017, which probably now feels like couch change after the return the 22-year-old has already provided the club. Rodríguez ran away with the American League Rookie of the Year Award and even earned a seventh-place finish in the AL MVP vote after a big first season in the big leagues. Add to that the 12-year extension he signed in the summer that will guarantee him $210 million (with a chance to earn much more). The sky is the limit for him. — Corey Brock

Julio Rodríguez. (Joe Nicholson / USA Today)

St. Louis Cardinals: Sandy Alcántara

The Cardinals signed then-18-year-old Sandy Alcántara as part of their 2013-2014 international class, back when current assistant general manager Moisés Rodríguez served as the organization’s director of international scouting. Alcántara debuted for St. Louis in 2017 but was traded to Miami the following offseason for Marcell Ozuna, a move president of baseball operations John Mozeliak has probably lost some sleep over in hindsight. Since that trade, Alcántara has established himself as one of the top starting pitchers in baseball with two National League All-Star berths under his belt along with unanimously winning the National League Cy Young Award in 2022. — Katie Woo

Tampa Bay Rays: Wander Franco

Wander Franco the Wunderkind is a star for a reason. He was limited to 83 games because of lower body issues and a hamate bone fracture that required surgery, but he still showed glimpses of his star status at points throughout the year. Despite missing large swaths of the season, the Rays’ manager still pointed to his own excitement to watch Franco put up big numbers in 2023. We should side with Kevin Cash on this. Franco, signed out of the Dominican Republic not even six years ago, is just barely getting started. — Maria Torres

Texas Rangers: Jonathan Hernández

The obvious answer would be Leody Taveras, but for the price ($300,000), it’s hard to top Jonathan Hernández. At the time, his fastball was in the 80s and he was considered a deception-first guy who wouldn’t overpower hitters. Now armed with a triple-digit “turbo-sinker,” he’s a legit back-end reliever who could find himself in the closer role in 2023. Ask again in a few years, though: it’s very possible that the answer could change to Taveras or Luisangel Acuña. — Levi Weaver

Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

The Blue Jays have become highly regarded for their international scouting over the last several years, but their best signing of the last decade has to be Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, his family ties meant Guerrero was a recognizable name, but his hitting prowess is what got him noticed. He continued to blossom in their system and debuted with the Blue Jays in 2019 to much fanfare. After an adjustment period, he’s developed into one of the best young hitters in baseball, a Gold Glove-winning first baseman, and a player the Blue Jays are building a playoff-calibre team around. — Kaitlyn McGrath

Washington Nationals: Juan Soto

Remember the kid who had to wait until the 2019 World Series was almost over to legally consume alcohol in beer showers? The one with the swaggy shuffle at the plate? Who once carried his bat all the way up the first base line and dropped it at the feet of his first base coach after obliterating a Justin Verlander heater? It was Juan Soto. His short career in Washington will resonate forever in the nation’s capital. — Maria Torres

(Top photo of Shohei Ohtani: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

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