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07/13/08 2:27 PM ET
Giants sign young Dominican outfielder
Rodriguez gets club-record bonus on his 16th birthday
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The Giants signed 16-year-old outfielder Rafael Rodriguez, a highly regarded prospect from the Dominican Republic, to a $2.55 million bonus, the largest ever given in franchise history to an amateur player. Giants officials did not disclose the bonus figure, but Rodriguez's agent, Rob Plummer, divulged the amount during a Sunday news conference in Santo Domingo to announce Rodriguez's signing. Infielder Angel Villalona, who signed for $2.1 million in 2006, previously received the richest bonus from the Giants. Right-hander Tim Lincecum, selected 10th overall in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, collected a $2.025 million bonus, the highest for a San Francisco draftee. Rodriguez has been linked to the Giants for months, but Sunday, Rodriguez's birthday, was the first day an agreement could be announced. Felipe Alou, the former Giants manager who is now a special assistant to general manager Brian Sabean, was among several club officials to evaluate Rodriguez and came away duly impressed. "I haven't seen him swing and miss yet," said Alou, who watched Rodriguez take batting practice and play a couple of games against older competition. Alou believes that Rodriguez, who plays mostly right field, will gain bulk on his 6-foot-5, 198-pound frame. "He's obviously going to get a lot bigger and stronger than he is right now," Alou said. Rodriguez, a right-handed batter, has been described as a five-tool player, although Alou called his speed "average or better." Alou also liked Rodriguez's demeanor: "He's a very confident young person." Rodriguez's signing further reflects the Giants' increased presence in the international market, which stems largely from the arrival of John Barr as scouting director last offseason. Earlier this month, the Giants signed Dominican right-hander Luis Mateo, another 16-year-old. Barr said that Rodriguez, who was signed to a 2009 contract and won't start playing professionally until then, will continue to practice in the Dominican Republic before undergoing a physical examination in San Francisco or at the Giants' training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz. Barr expects Rodriguez to participate with other Giants prospects in the Arizona instructional league beginning in September. He'll also perform in a Dominican instructional league.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.