Historically, the San Francisco Giants were one of the first teams to aggressively tap into the foreign market.
In the late '50s and '60s, players like the Alou brothers, Felipe, Matty and Jesus, wore the Giants' orange and black. Hall of Fame slugger Orlando Cepeda also came up through the Giants' organization. Juan Marichal, another Hall of Fame superstar, is from the Dominican Republic.
The Giants were also the first team to sign a Japanese national. Masanori Murakami, a left-handed pitcher, played for the Giants in 1964-65.
Currently, the Giants have several foreign-born players on the roster, including Pablo Sandoval, Hector Sanchez, Angel Pagan, Juan Perez, Ehire Adrianza, Joaquin Arias, Jean Machi, Juan Gutierrez, Yusmeiro Petit and Santiago Casilla.
The Giants have enjoyed a rich history of players from south of the U.S. However, in recent years, they have not done a good job of acquiring impact players from these markets, especially Asia and Cuba.
The rather forgettable play of Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Osvaldo Fernandez and Kensuke Tanaka are prime examples of players the Giants invested in, but who never panned out.
One of the most highly regarded foreign prospects the Giants signed in recent years, Angel Villalona, received a $2.1 million signing bonus in 2006. He has battled weight issues and legal problems.
Villalona missed the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons as he fought for his life and freedom in his native Dominican Republic. He was jailed on a murder charge but acquitted. According to Andrew Baggarly, then of the San Jose Mercury News, "the rumors are that Villalona, who received a $2.1 million bonus from the Giants as a 16-year-old, paid $150,000 to the family of the slain man."
Villalona is still playing in Richmond, the Giants' Double-A affiliate, where he is hitting just .263 with an OBP of .323 and OPS of .766. In 228 at-bats, Villalona has eight home runs and 41 RBI. Once a top prospect for the Giants, Villalona is struggling to get his career back on track.
Their biggest competition in the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have done a far better job of finding and developing star talent. Players like Hideo Nomo, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yasiel Puig have all made a significant impact for the Dodgers.
Their latest Cuban signing, second baseman Alex Guerrero, currently in Triple-A, is also not far away from a big league debut.
In the 2014 season alone, two recent signings have proven to give their respective teams a tremendous boost. Cuban national Jose Abreu, who signed with the White Sox, is leading the majors with 27 home runs, 67 RBI and a slugging percentage of .627.
Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka is helping to keep the Yankees in contention. He has a record of 11-3, with an ERA of 2.10 and WHIP of 0.951. In 115.2 innings of work, Tanaka has allowed only 92 hits and 18 walks, while striking out 127.
In a bold move, perhaps signaling the Giants' realization that they have fallen behind in their acquisition and development of international talent, the Giants signed Cuban outfielder Daniel Carbonell a few weeks ago.
Henry Schulman of sfgate.com reports that the deal was for $3.175 million, which includes a $1 million signing bonus. Carbonell is signed through 2017.
Carbonell is 23 years of age and has the potential to be a five-tool player. However, he is not there yet and has to develop. Do not expect to see Carbonell with the Giants this season; even 2015 is uncertain.
With no strong outfield prospects on the horizon for the Giants, Carbonell, who has played all three outfield positions, will move through the system as fast as his play merits.
The success of Carbonell may go a long way to determining how aggressive the Giants will be in signing international players in the future.
The international market is an area the Giants once excelled in, but we have not seen that in recent years. The signing of Carbonell hopefully refocuses the Giants on a talent pool they have largely ignored.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!