Amateur players from Latin America often profit from bidding wars because most of them are not subject to the Major League Baseball draft.
Nomar Mazara, a 16-year-old slugger from the Dominican Republic, stands to make a record $5 million (before taxes, plus attorney and agent fees, etc.) after reportedly agreeing to a deal with the Texas Rangers on Sunday.
ESPN's Enrique Rojas first reported the Mazara signing, which has been rumored for some time and eclipses the $4.25 million bonus the Oakland Athletics spent on pitcher Michael Ynoa in 2008. (Ynoa turns 20 in September and is recovering from Tommy John surgery performed 11 months ago.)
The Blue Jays, Red Sox and A's also were interested in Nomar II.
Mazara is a left-handed swinging corner outfielder with a lanky 6-foot-3, 185 pound frame that projects to gain mass. He's got a big leg kick (thank you, Jose Bautista(notes)?) that generates a lot of power, but his swing might have a hole in it because he strikes out a lot. Like, a LOT.
To wit, Ben Badler of Baseball America quotes a scouting report about Nomar II that includes this somewhat stunning nugget:
Mazara, who is represented by Ivan Noboa, doesn't play in any of the major leagues that have popped up in the Dominican Republic and has been showcased judiciously. Several scouts have said Mazara showed up at workouts, took BP then left without facing live pitching.
That's kind of like taking a car for a test drive without leaving the parking lot. Well, at least he leaves on a high note. However, though we all sometimes wish for robot umpire overlords to replace the flesh-and-blood Phil Cuzzis, I don't think human pitchers will become extinct and be replaced by machine by the time Nomar II is major league ready come 2016 or so.
Mazara will have to face his aversion someday soon. In the meantime, the $5 million should give him some ability to pay the family's bills, if not hit a breaking ball.
Anytime you hear "16 years old" and "millions of dollars," it's natural to pause, or even shake your head violently "no!" and tell them to go to their room.
As Larry Brown Sports argues, 16 seems awfully young for anyone to know if a player will develop into a major leaguer — let alone if someone is worth a $5 million bonus.
Yet, it's not uncommon for teams to spend millions on bonuses for unproven teenagers, from without and within the U.S. Bryce Harper, hello! That it's common doesn't make it sensible. But it's the system we have. Until Bud Selig and the players association change it, that is, as soon as 2012.
Nomar Mazara might be among the last bonus babies. Not that fans should fret too much over how much he's paid. It's not our money, once we give it to the owners.