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Dodgers throw big money around for international talent

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers continued to spend lavishly to build what they hope will soon be the best minor league system in baseball. Thursday, the team announced the signings of nine international prospects, including the most coveted pitcher on the market.

The deals had been worked out weeks earlier in most cases, but the Dodgers were prohibited from making any announcements until Thursday, the first day of the new international signing period.

The big prize, according to most scouts, is Cuban right-handed pitcher Yadiel Alvarez, who the team has clocked throwing as hard as 100 mph, according to senior vice president for baseball operations Josh Byrnes. The Dodgers doled out $16 million plus penalties to land Alvarez. They also landed burly Dominican outfielder Starling Heredia -- nicknamed “pit bull” -- for $2.6 million; infielder Ronny Brito for $2 million; shortstop Oneal Cruz for $950,000 and outfielder Christopher Arias for $500,000, among others.

By blowing past their allotted spending limits, the Dodgers will be largely on the sidelines for the big prizes in the next two signing periods. They won’t be allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during either of the next two signing periods and they must pay a 100 percent tax on the pool overage.

“We felt if we were going to exceed the limit, let’s make it count,” Byrnes said.

And they may not be done. Reports have linked them to 20-year-old center fielder Eddy Julio Martinez, who was declared a free agent in May. Martinez reportedly will sign for roughly $10 million.

Of the nine players, six are from the Dominican Republic and one each come from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Byrnes called Alvarez, 19, “one of the most talented teenage right-handed pitchers many of us in the business have ever seen,” and said he will likely spend the summer at the team’s facilities in the Dominican Republic before embarking on his minor league career the following spring.

The pipeline from Cuba to the Dodgers has been the most eye-opening aspect of the latest influx. Over the past several years, the Dodgers have spent $180 million landing Yasiel Puig, Alex Guerrero, Hector Olivera, Erisbel Arruebarrena, Pablo Fernandez and, now, Alvarez.