The White Sox are really stingy at spending in the draft. This has been covered, there's no indication that it's changing with the new CBA, and it's a pretty large hindrance to building a formidable young talent base.
But the White Sox have been double-dipping in terrible with their habitual miniscule spending on international amateur free agents. People get mad when you double-dip in salsa, so just imagine how bad it is to double-dip in terrible.
That two-pronged failure to adequately funnel young talent into the organization is why the White Sox find themselves with the worst farm system in baseball. Oh sure, handing out prospects in trades like they were fun size Three Musketeers bars didn't help, nor did Jared Mitchell's ankle exploding, nor did Trayce Thompson hosting multiple seasons of the game show "Where Did That Ball Just Curve To?".
But prospects suffer disheartening setbacks all the time, and trading prospects is a near-necessity to compete. The key is to have enough volume to absorb the inevitable blows. With timing that's been curiously aligned with the hiring of Assistant to the GM and presumptive Guy Who Makes a Lot of Decisions Concerning International Scouting, Marco Paddy, the White Sox have shown hints about giving a crap about this again, which is a sea-change from the era of Very Blatantly and Unabashedly Not Giving a Crap.
The White Sox spent $345,000 total on international amateurs in 2010, which is more than I spent on international amateurs, but not more than any other team in the league, and were at a similar mark for 2011.
Then Wednesday, they signed 16 (going on 17) year-old RHP Luis Martinez out of Venezuela for a signing bonus of $250,000....which is a....a departure.
Martinez is from a well-regarded program, with a big frame (6'4") and a fastball that's already around average velocity with the potential to grow. But he's a 16 year-old pitcher, so it's absurd to spend much more time discussing him. He has potential...of an undetermined amount.
Far more important is the precedent. $250,000 is more than the White Sox have committed to any amateur international free agent since presumably Dayan Viciedo. In the since Paddy was hired, the Sox have now twice dealt for Blue Jays pitching prospects, including dealing their best chip for Paddy's hand-picked favorite Nestor Molina, and have now upped their amateur free agent investment well beyond previous levels. On their own, these are pretty circumstantial pieces of evidence of a new approach with Paddy on staff. Together, this is starting to look a hell of a lot like a trend.
It would be enough for the White Sox just start acknowledging international scouting again, it'd be even better if they could do so while avoiding federal prosecution, but for it to actually come via a hire from an organization revered for its minor league development (Toronto), is just delightful.
Or it isn't. I've never heard Paddy speak or even know what he looks like, and am speculating based on the sense the White Sox seem to be doing exactly what their press release for the Paddy hiring said he was here to do:
"For the past five seasons, Paddy served as director of Latin America Operations with the Blue Jays and will now lead the Latin American scouting efforts of Chicago, with an emphasis on international signings."
It feels even weirder to celebrate the ushering in of a possible new age of sound and pragmatic investment by giving a quarter-million dollars to a 16 year-old, but hey, that's baseball. The key to winning is to give the 16 year-old a quarter million dollars before the next team swoops in and offers him $300K.