Los­ing ground in race for stars

Po­ten­tial sign­ing of Mesa broth­ers could set tone for re­build­ing job by Ori­oles

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jon Me­oli

The Ori­oles are in a pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion when it comes to Cuban out­field­ers Victor Victor Mesa and his brother, Victor Mesa Jr., who worked out last week in Miami in front of sev­eral clubs and rep­re­sent the crown jewels of the in­ter­na­tional free-agent mar­ket.

In the first off­sea­son of the Ori­oles’ re­build, the two young Cuban stars have come to rep­re­sent much to the club’s fan base, so fail­ure in land­ing them won’t start the win­ter off on a good note. That is be­com­ing more pos­si­ble as the Miami Mar­lins amass in­ter­na­tional bonus slots to ri­val the Ori­oles’ pool of hy­po­thet­i­cal money.

What­ever fi­nan­cial ad­van­tage the Ori­oles had in the race to sign the Mesa broth­ers ap­peared to evap­o­rate when the Mar­lins, their near­est com­peti­tor in the mar­ket for the Cuban stars, made a pair of trades this week to boost their own pool of in­ter­na­tional bonus slot money. They ac­quired bonus money in trades with the Cincin­nati Reds and Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als that bring them to $6 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to The Ath­letic. The Ori­oles are at around $6.7 mil­lion, the high­est pool avail­able. But the Mar­lins have closed the gap.

En­ter­ing the Me­sas’ work­out in Miami, the Ori­oles had plenty go­ing for them. At the All-Star break — when then-ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent Dan Du­quette an­nounced a shift in fo­cus from the present-day ma­jor league club to a host of other ar­eas, in­clud­ing the club’s ne­glected in­ter­na­tional sign­ing struc­ture — they were a bit be­hind the curve with this year’s top in­ter­na­tional prospects.

The Ori­oles be­gan this year with $5.5 mil­lion as a team that got a Com­pet­i­tive Balance Round A draft pick, traded Brad Brach to the At­lanta Braves for $250,000 in

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