A's agree to terms with prospect Inoa
$4.25 million signing bonus is club's largest for amateur player
ANAHEIM -- When the A's slashed their big league payroll considerably with the offseason trades of Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Mark Kotsay and Marco Scutaro, they said they'd be re-investing the savings into the club's infrastructure by hiring more scouts and focusing more of their energies on the international talent pool.
The first tangible product of that approach is 16-year-old Michael Inoa, a right-handed pitcher from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
Inoa, who stands 6-foot-7, weighs 210 pounds and throws a fastball that's been clocked as high as 95 mph, was introduced at a press conference in Santo Domingo, D.R., on Wednesday morning after the A's gave him a franchise-record $4.25 million signing bonus.
"It was very important for us," Beane said on a conference call. "First and foremost, this is a special player, and it also goes back to the goal for us. We put out an organizational game plan. ... We anticipate continuing to be very aggressive -- not just in Latin America, but in the rest of the world."
The A's brass has long been working to sign Inoa, who was pursued by several Major League teams. Beane said he's visited Inoa and his family three times in the past seven weeks, and A's director of player personnel Billy Owens has been the point man on Inoa for months. A's owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher also made visits to the baseball-rich island country to see Inoa.
"We were well represented down here," Beane said. "We thought it was very important to invest a lot of time with the family to get to know them and so they could get to know us. I think that was very important.
"Going back a few months, it was pretty apparent this was going to be the most sought after guy in Latin America."
Raymond Abreu, Oakland's director of Latin America operations, gushed about Inoa's potential.
"There is no question that Michael is an impact prospect," Abreu said. "In my opinion, he's the most impressive Latin America player since [2002 Seattle signee] Felix Hernandez. As a pitcher, [Inoa] has effortless mechanics with loose arm action on all his pitches and a clean, easy delivery. He's an exceptional athlete and he throws a very heavy fastball."
Beane echoed Abreu, calling Inoa "one of the best Latin American prospects of the past decade" and comparing him physically to Orioles lefty Daniel Cabrera.
"You kind of run out of superlatives," Beane said. "The first thing you notice is there's a self-confidence that's really, really unique. He's 6-7 now and ... he looks like a small forward in the NBA. He's a very athletic kid. He's an outstanding athlete at that size and that age. ... He has outstanding fastball, a real feel for his breaking ball, and a real feel for pitching.
"At this age, he's very unique. At 16, he probably wouldn't have been eligible for the [First-Year Player Draft], but if he'd gone into the Draft this year, he probably would have been a top-15 pick, and at 18, he'd have probably been a top-five pick."
As such, Inoa is getting paid like a top Draft pick. His signing bonus tops by $1.2 million the previous largest Oakland had awarded, to Mark Mulder in 1998.
"The risk and the potential of what this could be was worth it to us," said Beane.
Beane said Inoa turns 17 on Sept. 24, adding that the A's have no doubt out the legitimacy of his birth records.
The A's plan to bring Inoa along slowly for the time being. After visiting the U.S. for a physical, he'll return to the Dominican and spend the summer at Oakland's La Victoria Baseball Academy.
Beane said the club hasn't decided how much pitching Inoa will do at the complex, where he'll be visited by A's director of player development Keith Lieppman and roving pitching instructor Gil Patterson.
"We'll start to indoctrinate him in some of the things we teach," Beane said.
Asked what kind of competition Inoa had been facing while the A's scouted him, Beane said his most impressive showing was in something of an intrasquad game at La Victoria in which the A's had several older professionals face the prodigy.
"He was going against some of our more advanced kids down there," Beane said, "and he .. had no problem at all in that situation."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.