07/13/10 3:48 PM ET
Jays sign pair of top Venezuelan prospects
Toronto looking more to international markets
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
"It's a great time to be a Toronto Blue Jay," said Marco Paddy, the club's director of Latin America operations. "We're going to be everywhere and we're going see whoever we've got to see and we're going to evaluate the players and try to sign every one that we think is going to help us win a championship.
"We're covering every inch of the world to try to get the best players."
Paddy spoke via conference call from the Netherlands, where he is currently monitoring a tournament that includes teams from the United States, Europe and Cuba, among other places. Next on his itinerary are trips to Aruba, Canada and possibly a third stop in Japan to see more players.
Since Alex Anthopoulos took over as the Blue Jays general manager at the end of last season, the organization has taken a more aggressive approach to scouting and player development. Budgets were increased, a surplus of scouts were hired and every highly-touted prospect suddenly became a realistic target.
"We're certainly energized since he's been here and we're very aggressive," Paddy said. "We're not going to get in a race that we're not willing to win."
That includes players such as Cardona (a right-handed pitcher) and Cenas (a third baseman) -- both 16 years old who became eligible for signing on July 2. Anthopoulos confirmed that Cardona received a $2.8 million signing bonus -- the largest given to a Latin American amateur player in club history -- while Cenas garnered $700,000.
Considering they are so young, both Cardona and Cenas come with obvious risk. Anthopoulos understands that, but the rookie general manager believes investing in these types of players -- highly-touted amateurs with strong upside -- is worth the gamble and the money.
"There's risk to all these signings," Anthopoulos said. "If you don't take any of these chances, and you don't sign any of these players, you never have a chance of getting the high-impact players, the high-ceiling players."
While forming a long-term plan to help the Blue Jays organization find its way back to the postseason -- Toronto has not reached the playoffs since last winning the World Series in 1993 -- Anthopoulos felt more emphasis on international scouting was required. The GM has backed up his talk with a few high-profile pursuits.
Over the offseason, the Blue Jays were in the running for Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman, who ultimately signed with the Reds for $30.25 million over six years. Then in April, Toronto reeled in Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria with a $10 million Major League contract that spans four years.
Toronto's activity on the international stage is an indication of how much things have changed since Anthopoulos took over for former Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi.
"Obviously you have to have the resources to sign the players," Paddy said. "We're serious. It's a big statement for Alex Anthopoulos and for all of us who are part of his team. There's no doubt that people know that we're serious about it.
"We've always been serious. I just think now we have the ammunition to get the job done."
Cardona (6-foot-4 and 180 pounds) and Cenas (6-foot-1 and 175 pounds) -- viewed as two of the top prospects coming out of Venezuela this summer -- are both scheduled to begin their professional careers in the Dominican Summer League for the Jays. Paddy said Toronto was impressed with both of the players' makeup and ability.
"[Cenas] is a guy that we've been watching for some time now," Paddy said. "We feel he's got a very special bat with the ability to play third base. A lot of natural tools. We've seen him grow, develop and get stronger and improve every day. We're fortunate to have him and we're very happy that we do.
"Cardona is a very good athlete," he continued. "He's a special young man with a lot of baseball in his family. ... We're very excited because he's got a special arm and we obviously agree that he has the type of arm that can develop into being something special in the Major Leagues.
"It's a special moment for the organization."
Reports surfaced within the past couple months that the Blue Jays had reached an agreement with Cardona before the July 2 signing date arrived. Paddy responded by saying Toronto stayed within the rules throughout the process. Anthopoulos echoed that sentiment.
"There's rumors about this organization day in and day out," Anthopoulos said. "To be honest with you, I think it's flattering when we're getting linked to the top players. It's kind of nice that a lot of the top talent, people are linking us, and I think it's part of our increased staff and I think it's reflection of the job Marco and his staff are doing."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.