The Rangers have acquired international slot bonus money from the Orioles in exchange for minor league righty David Lebron, as per an announcement from the Orioles.
The trade represents an interesting twist for Baltimore, who has been amassing international draft money for months in various other deals in an attempt to revitalize the franchise’s long-dormant international development pipeline. Owner Peter Angelos had long shied away from spending on int’l prospects, though the organization’s stance changed significantly once Angelos’ sons took on a larger role in the Orioles’ operations. Under new general manager Mike Elias, the club has hired the well-regarded Koby Perez as Baltimore’s new senior director of international scouting.
After coming up short in their pursuit of Cuban prospects Sandy Gaston, Victor Victor Mesa, and Victor Mesa Jr., the O’s were left with easily the largest bonus pool of any team of the 2018-19 international signing period, with close to $6MM in available funds. (The Dodgers were next on the list with just $1.4MM.)
Interestingly, both Baltimore and Texas were two of the teams reportedly interested in Cuban shortstop Yolbert Sanchez, who is the most highly-touted prospect on the int’l market after being cleared to sign with Major League teams in late January. Texas has only $850K remaining in its signing pool, so the Rangers could be trying to add more money to land Sanchez, and could perhaps make more deals in the coming days or weeks to add extra funds from teams that have satisfied their needs in this signing period (or were under spending restrictions in this period).
By specifically trading with Texas, it could indicate that the Orioles are out on Sanchez, since it would make little sense to assist a rival in signing a prospect that the O’s themselves want. Theoretically, the Orioles might already have a price point in mind for Sanchez that sits at less than $6MM, so they’re simply trading some of their own excess space to the Rangers, who will then pursue other prospects. Baltimore is in something of an unusual position, as most teams have long since exhausted their bonus pools by this time in the 2018-19 signing period, yet there also isn’t much in the way of premium talent remaining other than Sanchez.
Lebron was a 26th-round pick for Texas in last summer’s amateur draft. A 25-year-old product of the University of Tampa, Lebron posted a 1.31 ERA, 8.3 K/9, and 3.17 K/9 rate over his first 20 2/3 professional innings. Lebron pitched exclusively as a reliever for the Rangers’ low-A and high-A affiliates, though his season was cut short to injury in August.