Blue Jays Sign International Prospect Manuel Beltre
By Ty Hudec
The MLB International Free Agency period opened up on Friday and the Toronto Blue Jays cashed in right away, signing highly touted shortstop Manuel Beltre.
The Blue Jays added six new players on Friday when the MLB’s international free agency period officially opened up. Highlighting the group is 16-year-old standout Manuel Beltre from the Dominican Republic. Beltre was ranked 24th on MLB.com’s international prospect list and 9th among 16-year-olds. Beltre is said to be one of the most advanced hitters in this year’s class.
Beltre was originally connected to the Blue Jays last spring, but the signing was delayed when the MLB postponed the international signing period from last July due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Beltre is listed as a shortstop and scouts have described him as having plus-arm potential and a high baseball IQ.
Beltre began playing internationally with the Dominican Republic back in 2014 and has been a mainstay on the DR’s U14 and U15 squads in recent years. Scouts say he has good range and a quick transfer, and has the potential to be an above-average defender at either shortstop or second base down the road. Beltre is equipped with a smooth, compact swing and is very experienced at the plate compared to other prospects his age. He has also been praised for a strong work ethic and dedication to the game, as shown by the many workout videos he posts on social media.
Beltre joins a long list of highly touted international signings made by the Toronto Blue Jays over the years. Current everyday starters Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Lourdes Gurriel Jr came to the team via international free agency back in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Alejandro Kirk was also signed to an international deal back in 2016 and made a strong impression on Blue Jays fans when he first joined the team this past September. Other recent signings still in the system include infielder Orelvis Martinez, pitcher Eric Pardinho, and catcher Gabriel Moreno.
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Blue Jays legend Carlos Delgado is perhaps the most notable international free agent signing in club history. Delgado joined the Jays as a catching prospect in 1988 and went on to spend parts of 12 seasons in Toronto, winning three Silver Slugger Awards and the AL’s Hank Aaron Award in 2000.
Another Blue Jays legend, the late Tony Fernandez, was also signed as an international free agent way back in 1979. Fernandez was a five-time all-star who won four consecutive Gold Gloves as the Blue Jays shortstop. He was also a member of the 1993 World Series Champs. Both Delgado and Fernandez went on to have illustrious MLB careers and have been honoured on the Level of Excellence at Rogers Centre.
According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, the Beltre signing will take up $2.6 million of the Blue Jays international bonus pool which sits at just over $5.3 million. Other confirmed signings include shortstop Luis Garcia, catcher Jonathan Peguero, outfielders Yhoangel Aponte and Yeuni Munoz, as well as shortstop Martin Giminez, pending a physical. The Blue Jays are expected to add a few more international prospects as the signing period goes on.