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Mariners Sign Dominican Outfielder Phillips Castillo

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Phillips Castillo headlines a class of three international signings by the Seattle Mariners. The other two are right-handed pitcher Jose Torres and third baseman Yordyn Calderon. Castillo cost significantly more than Torres or Calderon. I have no insight to impart about these three players. Instead, I have a broader perspective.

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In football, one of the very few known ways to maximize the draft is to add as many draft picks as possible. The major reason this is true is that though the earliest picks are indeed many times more valuable than later picks, the slope of value is not nearly as steep as the traditional value chart implies. By late in the first round, a player is worth considerably less than two third round picks. Put simply: there is not as much that separates the talent and ability of a mid-round pick from a first-round pick as the hype and discrepancy and salary would suggest.

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Signing international players seems like “free picks.” The players do count against the global budget (though as I recall the Mariners' international budget is kept separate from the team budget), but draft picks typically produce surplus value. So, a little money spent, but most likely spent towards a profitable investment. That is something that rarely happens in free agency, where a team is content to break even.

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Except for the arbitration loophole, teams can not earn more draft picks. No trades, none of that seemly buying of picks that happens in the NBA, pick your players and hope for the best. International signings allow a team to “buy” picks by buying players that are not otherwise in the draft eligible player pool.

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The Mariners have done this for years and to great success. Castillo, Torres and Calderon may never develop into major league capable talent, but Castillo, Torres and Calderon are three extra chances to find an undervalued resource.