Cubs continue to look for impact talent as international signing period nears

Cubs continue to look for impact talent as international signing period nears
Castro signed for $45K in 2006

When it comes to the international signing period, which begins on July 2nd, the rules have changed.

Eventually there will be pools where, much like the draft,  the teams that have the lowest winning percentages will get the most money to spend, but for now, every team is on equal footing.  Every team gets $2.9M to spend.

The Cubs often prefer to spread their money around in Latin America rather than spend all of it on one or two players, but last year they spent $2.7M alone on two players, Marck Malave ($1.6M) and Luis Acosta ($1.1M).  Of course, that's nothing compared to the $5M the Rangers spent on Nomar Mazara and the $3.45M they spend on Ronald Guzman.  Overall, Texas spent $12.83M while the Cubs spent $4.54M.  In 2010, the Cubs spent $4.16M, with RHP Jin-Yeong Kim getting the most money at $850,000 while Carlos Penalver, SS, got $550,000 and Jeimer Candelario, 3B, got $500,000.

The Cubs already have a head start on this year by signing 4 prominent Cuban players, led by RF Jorge Soler ($30M) and LHP Gerardo Concepcion ($6M).  Earlier they signed OF Yasiel Balaguert (400K), and RHP Carlos Martinez ($250K).  The highest bonuses given to Cuban players the year before (2010) were 2B-OF Rubi Silva ($1M) and C Yaniel Cabezas (500K).

Money isn't everything in this game.  Every once in awhile you get a player like Starlin Castro, who received a $45,000 bonus to sign.  They signed RHP Larry Suarez, who's still in Peoria as a middle relief pitcher, that same year for $850,000.  Being able to beat your opponents to the punch in scouting a player like Castro plays a big role, as does some creativity, exemplified when the Cubs signed lesser international hitters like Carlos Marmol and Rafael Dolis for bargain rates and then turned them into pitchers.

I expect the limits to affect Asian prospects like Kim even more than Latin American players.  Asian players often require a premium because of the greater risk of leaving their country to play ball in the U.S.  They are not always welcomed back if they don't succeed here.  This year the crop in Asia is a little more lean than usual, so I don't expect the Cubs to sign a major player from that region.

There are plenty of players in Latin America that would interest the Cubs.  I'm not necessarily going to list them all, but we'll highlight a few who fit the Cubs preferred style of high ceiling/high floor, which often means a good mix of athleticism, baseball-specific skills, and strong mental makeup.

In that vein, here's a few names to keep an eye on...

  • Jairo Beiras, OF, 6'5", 190 lbs., DOB under investigation, (Dominican Republic): Beiras is now more  famous for the DOB flap after he signed with the Texas Rangers.  If he's available, he'll be one of the more sought after players.  He's tall and lean, and projects to fill out and hit for big power.
  • Gustavo Cabrera, OF, 6'2", 190 lbs., 1/23/96, (Dominican Republic):  Cabrera is a toolsy player with great speed and an advanced swing.  He also has some experience in the U.S., having played in a tournament and showcase event.  Downside is that he sometimes plays out of control, but he just turned 16, so that's not exactly shocking.  Cabrera has been most often linked to the Royals
  • Nathanael Javier, 3B, 6'3", 185, 10/10/95 (Dominican Republic): Javier is one of my favorite players on this list because of his mix of athleticism and baseball instincts.  He has the abilty to hit for average and power once he fills out his lean frame.  There is some major upside here.
  • Luis Torrens, 3B, 6'0", 170 lbs., 5/2/96, (Venezuela):  Not as talented as Javier, but fits Cubs mold in that he plays good defense and could eventually hit for average and power, as well as be an above average runner.  He's just a good all-around player who also happens to be one of the youngest players available in this draft, having just turned 16 a little over a month ago.  Torrens has been linked to the Yankees.
  • Wendell Rijo, SS,5'11", 175 lbs., 9/4/95, (Dominican Republic): If there is any player that reminds me of Almora on this list, it's Rijo, in that he has the kind of international experience, strong mental makeup, leadership qualities, and baseball-specific skills the Cubs liked in their first round pick.  The downside is his size, which isn't too small but it's a little less than ideal.  Rijo is aood all around player who Jonathan Mayo says has among the highest upsides in this draft.  Lack of plus arm strength may move him to 2B, however.
  • Richard Urena, SS, 6'1", 160 lbs., 2/26/96, (Dominican Republic): One of the few true SS on this list, Urena has a lot of growing to do, but he has great range and solid hands on defense right now.  As you might expect from his build, he's not a power hitter, but he has all the other tools you want.
  • Jose Mujica, RHP, 6'2", 180 lbs, 6/29/96, (Venezuela) Mujica turns 16 just days before the signing period begins.  He's got a good pitchers build, nice delivery, and good arm action.  He keeps the ball down and is confident and aggressive on the mound, though he is quiet, and mature for his age.  The Blue Jays seem to have shown the greatest interest in Mujica.

I expect the Cubs to continue making upside plays and trying to add impact talent.  There's plenty of more names and you can find some of them on and Northside Baseball.  It wouldn't surprise me to see the Cubs spread their money out over a few players.  My guess is they'll pursue a player like Rijo or Javier, then look for them to be creative with the rest of their pool money, going for high risk/high reward types and perhaps a project or two.


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  • We have to go for it before July 2. Lets hope they can sign a
    few quality prospects. Already having lots of Cuban players
    should help us recruit.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Can't sign anyone before then unless they fell under old rules. Soler was the last real good horse out of the barn on that one.

  • Is Dave Sappelt's ceiling a 4th outfielder?

    Also, is Brett Jackson likely to be called up with Rizzo June 23rd? If so, whos roster spots do they take?

  • In reply to drew:

    I think Sappelt is a 4th OF'er. Basically he's Reed Johnson, but a younger version when Reed still had a little speed.

    Jackson will come up later. Still has some issues with strikeouts and doesn't have that full year at AAA yet. He's closing in on 500 PAs over two seasons, but I think the Cubs will keep him there until he gets at least 600, maybe more.

  • In reply to drew:

    Sappelt is a 4th or 5th outfielder. Also I would not be surprise if Brett Jackson isn't called up this year at all. Theo likes his prospect to get at least 500-600 plate appearance in AAA and due to Jackson's high K rate Theo might want to extend him even more

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    In reply to drew:

    I don't think Rizzo gets recalled until either Soriano or LaHair are traded to make room.

  • fb_avatar

    Jackson is currently sitting at 495 at bats @ the AAA level over the last 2 years... I bet he's recalled once a deal is consumated...I think Sappelt may be a better version of Reed Johnson, I just hope he has Reed's mental approach and hustle

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    I think they know they'll have to live with the K rate and just hope it improves as he gains experience as an MLB player. As long as he keeps the OBP around .340 and supplies extra base/HR power, speed and defense in CF, they'll be happy

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    and we'd be happy as well John...he's got intangibles and very self motivated, like Rizzo...future team leader

  • Oh yeah, my favorite prospect and the one I hope we sign above all the others is Nathanael Javier. Everything I've read sounds good. I haven't seen any videos and you never know if they're actually as young as they claim to be. Also, a minor bonus player like a S. Castro could end up being the best prospect we sign. You never know until like 5-7 years down the road. I have faith in our international scouts. Hopefully we find a few "diamonds-in-the-rough" again.

  • In reply to I miss Ron Santo:

    The crazy thing about Castro is that I was told by a scout that they knew he was an MLB player as soon as they saw him play. He just flew under the radar and the Cubs moved quickly to get him signed.

  • I know very little about this year's crop of IFA that are available. I doubt J. Beiras will become a FA. Either he'll get suspended and barred from signing for one year, or MLB will fine Texas if they knowingly tried to get him signed before the July 2nd and knew he was younger than he claimed to be. It's a tricky area with him. Many international players try to claim they're younger then they really are by forging their birth certificates, and are actually older than they claim to be. In Beiras case he tried to claim he was older so he could sign before July 2nd and get more money. Bizarre case that one.

  • In reply to I miss Ron Santo:

    Whatever happens with Beiras, I don't see him ending up with the Cubs anyway.

  • John:
    The fact that you and Tom are so plugged in is both awesome and a little scary. You guys are a dream come true in terms of getting us more hardcore Cubbie fans a decent no BS read on what is out there in the FA / international market. Tip of the Old Style to both you and Mr. Loxas, you guys are awesome. You guys do need to eventually let us know what your loyal and rabid reading public can do to support the site. I halfway (and I'm sure I'm not alone) feel like I'm stealing from you guys with all this amazing stuff you and Tom are putting out there.....

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    Thanks R2G! Haha! I don't know what you can do, just keep visiting the site! We're happy to share the info we can.

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