The changes brought on by baseball’s restructured CBA have forced teams to re-evaluate the way they do business, both in terms of the amateur draft and in signing international players. In Boston, Theo and Jed took advantage of the draft, overpaying the suggested draft slot values in order to sign premier talent. In an effort to discover and exploit new market inefficiencies, the Cubs focused heavily on the international market.
In 2013, the Cubs blew past their allotted $4.56 million for U-23 international signings. You see, each team is given a certain amount to spend in the market based on reverse standings from the previous season. This gives teams another incentive to perform poorly; for instance, the Cubs had the second highest pool.
But even with that high allotment, the Cubs spent more than $8 million on international players. As a result, the team had to pay a 100% tax on the overage and cannot sign any individual player for more than $250,000 in the next signing period. With another down year for the major league team looming, why would the front office decide to employ this method?
Simple; the Cubs believe that this year’s group is a lot better than next years. Even though they won’t be able to sign top-notch youngsters, they still will have money to spend. For example, in 2006 Starlin Castro was signed for just $50,000. Also, international spending money can be traded for players and/or money. Last season, the Cubs traded Ronald Torreyes to the Astros in exchange for $800,000 of pool space.
So what did all that extra money in contracts, bonuses, and overages land them? Well, the Cubs snatched up a total of 27 players; here is a review on the biggest signings.
Erling Moreno (17 years-old, signed for $650,000) - Moreno was ranked as the #17 international prospect according to MLB.com. Standing in at 6’3” and 190 pounds, he throws a fastball in the high 80’s which should increase as he fills out his frame. The Colombian also has a curveball and a changeup which could become above-average pitches. Expect him to start the year in the Dominican Summer League.
Jefferson Mejia (19 years-old, signed for $850,000) - Mejia started last season in the Dominican Summer League, making a few appearances. The athletically built Dominican features a fastball that sits in the low 90’s, and also has a changeup and a curveball in his repertoire. He could possibly start next season in the Arizona Rookie League, but another trip back to the Dominican Summer League is anticipated.
Jen-Ho Tseng (19 years-old, signed for $1.625 million) - The Taiwanese right-hander was ranked as the #29 prospect at MLB.com. On 3/16/2014, Tseng threw three innings against a team of 15- and 16 year-old Dominican amateurs. Baseball America’s Ben Badler, who was on hand at the game, wrote: “Tseng threw 89-93 mph, mostly in the higher end of that range for the first two innings. He mixed in an above-average curveball that mostly registered at 75, though he added and subtracted with the pitch. He threw plenty of strikes with his curveball, which had good depth and late, sharp bite. He buckled the knees of back-to-back hitters for strikeouts at one point, and while the hitters he’s facing were mostly 15- and 16-year-old boys, the fastball and curveball were quality pitches regardless of who he was facing.” Tseng’s best pitch is his changeup, and he also has a below-average slider. Next season, Tseng could start at Kane County, but Boise appears more likely.
Gleyber Torres (17 years-old, signed for $1.7 million) - The Venezuelan was the #3 prospect as stated by Jesse Sanches of MLB.com. Currently a shortstop, Torres has a strong arm but may not have the athletic built to stay there. With quick bat speed and the ability to hit to all fields, Torres could turn out to be special if his power develops. He is slated to start the year in the Venezuelan League, with some contradictory reports saying he would start stateside.
Eloy Jimenez (17 years-old, signed for $2.8 million) - Ranked as the consensus #1 prospect, Jimenez is already 6’4” and weighs 200 pounds. The projected corner outfielder possess plus-speed, an advanced feel for the game, and a great arm. His raw power hasn’t developed quite as well as scouts would have hoped and his main knock is that he doesn’t have an advanced feel for hitting. Though some thought he may start in Arizona, Ben Badler hears that Jimenez won’t, likely playing for the Dominican Cubs in the upcoming season.
Even with many of the top prospects in the system expected to reach the majors within the next couple of years, the Cubs’ prospect pipeline is in no danger of running dry anytime soon.