WASHINGTON -- The Brewers set a franchise record for a Latin American signing bonus twice over on Tuesday, agreeing to terms with 16-year-old Dominicans Franly Mallen and Nicolas Pierre to contracts worth $800,000 apiece as baseball's international signing period began.
Mallen, a shortstop, was No. 22 on MLB.com's list of the top international prospects, and Pierre, a center fielder, ranked No. 28. The Brewers also reported agreements with Panamian catcher Johel Atencio, Dominican shortstop Henry Correa and Venezuelan right-hander Nelson Hernandez.
All of those contracts were pending physical exams, as well as the standard Major League Baseball age investigation. All five players are listed at 16 years old and will begin their professional careers at the Brewers' academy in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, though they will not be eligible to play in that nation's summer league until next year.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin confirmed that the bonuses awarded Mallen and Pierre topped the $750,000 given pitcher Rolando Pascual in 2005, during a period in which the Brewers closed their Latin American academy and focused on signing fewer, but higher-profile players. Pascual topped out at Class A-Advanced Brevard County in 2011 and is now out of organized ball.
"Maybe in the past we wouldn't have gone this high with players, but we like these guys, the positions they play and the ability they have," Melvin said. "I put a lot of trust into [Brewers director of Latin American scouting ] Manny Batista. He's signed a lot of Major League players."
Batista took over the team's international scouting efforts in a reorganization last year, and works alongside director of Latin American operations Eduardo Brizuela. The team also sent special assistant Dan O'Brien to scout Latin American players over the past year.
Melvin said the Brewers' expenditures reflected the cost of doing business and the team's interest in these specific players, and not a shift in organizational strategy or a reaction to not having a first-round pick in last month's First-Year Player Draft.
Mallen, a 6-foot-1, 160-pounder, is a gap hitter with speed and power potential who hails from the baseball-rich city of San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic.
Pierre's full name is Nicolas Pierre Figueroa. He stands 6-foot-3, weighs 170 pounds and has the speed and instincts to stick as a center fielder.
Atencio, the catcher, received a $130,000 bonus, according to Baseball America. He is a 5-foot-10, 180-pound right-handed hitter.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Brewers had $2,227,300 to spend on international players. Under new rules in baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team is allotted a $700,000 base, plus four additional slot values based on its record the previous season. That pool money is tradable for the first time.
As always, there are exemptions. Clubs can sign six players for bonuses of $50,000 or less, and those do not count against the allotment. All bonuses of $10,000 or less are also exempt.
The international signing guidelines do not apply to players who previously signed a contract with a Major or Minor League club, nor do they apply to players who are least 23 years old and have played as a professional in a league recognized by the Commissioner's Office for a minimum of five seasons (thus, Norichika Aoki's two-year, $2.5 million contract last year does not count). Cuban players who are at least 23 and have played in a Cuban professional league for three or more seasons are also exempt.
Teams' pools range from just under $4.25 million for the Astros, who had the Majors' lowest winning percentage last year, to just under $1.15 million for the Nationals, who had the highest winning percentage. The Brewers ranked 16th.
Batista was formerly a Rangers scout and nearly signed Francisco Rodriguez for $40,000 in July 1998, Rodriguez said Tuesday. But Rodriguez opted instead to pitch for the Venezuelan national team in tournaments in Mexico and the U.S. and parlayed five strong outings on that trip into a $1 million bonus with the Angels in September.
Other international signees on the Brewers' current roster include pitcher Wily Peralta, whom the Brewers signed for $450,000 in November 2005; shortstop Jean Segura, who got $70,000 from the Angels in January 2007; and center fielder Carlos Gomez, who got $60,000 from the Mets in July 2002. Gomez said he had already purchased land in the Dominican Republic with plans to open an academy for amateur prospects.