The Philadelphia Phillies are ready to take over the world.
They're kind of like the evil mastermind in every good villainous movie. With Ruben Amaro Jr at the helm, they've constructed the monstrous plan that will be laughed at by some; but if all goes according to plan, they will be feared by all. They've collected a gigantic sum of money and now are taking out various divisions of the industry.
With the local scene in their rear view mirror, we've reached the point in the movie where the evil mastermind sets his goals higher and his conquests further. Over the winter, the Phillies took home the prize of the free-agent market, nabbing pitcher Cliff Lee. They walked away from the trade deadline with Hunter Pence in tow, and now they've set their sights on the global market.
On Wednesday afternoon, the news became official that the Phils had signed a player regarded as the top international free agent available this summer, inking outfielder Carlos Tocci to one of the largest deals they've ever agreed to with an international player.
While the Phillies have been mum on the specifics of the deal, sports writers on the local and national scale have confirmed the signing. Jim Salisbury of CSNphilly.com first reported that the Phils were on the verge of landing Tocci, while Ben Badler of Baseball America confirmed that the deal was official, and that the teenager considered by many as the best international free agent would be paid handsomely, receiving a bonus of $759,000.
After trading away Domingo Santana to complete the Pence deal, the Phillies wanted to make sure that they were able to replenish some of the void created in their minor league system. They did that in the best way possible, taking a bit of a risk to land Tocci, who at just 16 years old, is expected to be a blank canvas full of potential.
Tocci stands at 6'2" but weighs just 160 pounds. Though he's expected to fill into that huge frame some over the coming years, more than likely he won't change too much. Noted to have a good grasp of the game at a young age, Tocci's greatest tool is his speed, which many scouts are calling a "plus-plus."
Hitting from the right side of the plate, Tocci will also balance out some of the left-handed pop that the Phils house within a deep system. As he progresses, he is also expected to develop power, and with age he should become a legitimate five-tool prospect.
At the same time, however, it should be noted that the Phillies have not always had success on the international market. In fact, the only position player on the current roster signed as an international free agent is Panama's own Carlos Ruiz.
Tocci, who will receive the fourth-largest bonus in the history of the Phillies' organization for an international free agent, will hope to erase the memory of the players who received larger bonuses. In 1999, they agreed to terms with promising outfielder Josue Perez, and in 2001, as they attempted to turn around a struggling franchise, the Phils signed a pair of South Korean pitchers to huge bonuses.
The Phillies, who were struggling for respectability in the late '90s and early '00s, threw a large chunk of change at toolsy outfielder Josue Perez in 1999, but he was never able to put it together. The Phillies had seen enough by 2004, when he was released, and after being given a tryout by the Texas Rangers, he was out of baseball by 2005.
Seung Lee, regarded as the better prospect, was paid north of $1 million, while the second pitcher, Il Kim, received a bonus of just less than that. Their minor league careers were riddled with injury, inconsistency and lack of production, and both pitchers were out of the organization by the 2006 season.
With Tocci, Philadelphia looks to turn things around on the international market. After saving their money over the last couple of seasons, they're ready to go all in for 2011 and beyond.
While Tocci is regarded as a much better prospect than any other, the Phils have signed off of the international market. Whether or not he has an impact at the Major League level is a question well before its time, though. Only time will tell whether or not the Phils can turn their international fortunes around with a large dollar amount.