Why Blue Jays’ international market success pivotal to sustain competitive window

TORONTO – The look of the Toronto Blue Jays’ jerseys had long caught nine-year-old Manuel Beltre’s eye when on April 27, 2014, the club captured his attention for an entirely different reason.

That day, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Moises Sierra and Juan Francisco were all in the batting order – the first time six players from the Dominican Republic were in the same big-league starting lineup – during a 7-1 win over the Boston Red Sox.

A seventh, reliever Esmil Rogers, entered the game later while Jonathan Diaz, born in Miami to a Dominican dad, was also on the roster. They all signed the lineup card with plans to send it to the baseball museum back home.

The memorable moment stuck with an impressionable kid.

“That really impressed me,” says Beltre. “I started following them a lot because of Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista. It was like a Dominican team in the major leagues.”

Seven years later, the shortstop prospect landed a Blue Jays jersey of his own when he signed for $2.35 million, the club’s biggest commitment of the 2020-21 international free agency signing period. The 17-year-old made a solid debut in the Dominican Summer League last year and Baseball America recently ranked him No. 8 on the club’s pre-season prospects list, another sign he’s someone to keep an eye on.

Bigger picture, Beltre is also the latest talent to come from a pipeline that’s…

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