The Chicago White Sox are in an interesting and somewhat unfamiliar spot as it pertains to the 2017-2018 International Signing Period. July 2nd was the earliest date on which international prospects between the ages of 16 and 24 could sign with major league clubs. The White Sox and International Director Marco Paddy have been active on the international front in recent years and some of their signings have made it to full season ball. However, this is the first year that the White Sox have been in the "penalty" range during a signing period.
As detailed by FutureSox here, the White Sox signed 19 year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert back in May. They shelled out more than $50 million in bonuses and taxes and by doing so they entered the penalty range on the international amateur free agent market for the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 signing periods. This means they cannot sign any one player for a bonus greater than $300,000 in those periods.
As noted by Ben Badler of Baseball America, the White Sox held off on making promises to players for this signing period so that they wouldn't have to renege on potential agreements after the addition of Robert. Badler states that, "Robert was the White Sox top priority" but he also mentions that they might have shifted their focus to Cuban right-handed pitcher Roberto Hernandez who is a current free agent if they were unable to secure Robert. Badler also notes that the White Sox are in a different position than the other clubs that are in the penalty phase. Teams like the Cubs, Padres, and Braves were well aware of their standing and were able to act accordingly. Since Robert didn't sign until May, there was some uncertainty as it pertains to the White Sox. Badler says that they are "proceeding with more of an open canvas" and it seems like they may be trying to figure out their best course of action.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement put a hard cap on signings in place and there's really no way around the rules at the moment. As a large market club, the White Sox are still allowed to spend $4.75 million on international free agents in total, despite the per-player limit. The club is allowed to trade for more money (up to a total of $8.3 million) and they are also allowed to trade away some of their bonus allotment.
Even with the new rules in place, Paddy and his staff should be able to add some young talent to the pipeline and the White Sox officially began that process today.
White Sox agreed to terms with intl free agent Jefferson Mendoza. He is a 6-foot, 170-pound, right-handed-hitting catcher from Venezuela
— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) July 2, 2017
Badler called the 16-year old Mendoza an "athletic, right-handed hitting catcher with a strong arm". Mendoza hails from Cumana, Venezuela and his bonus amount was not disclosed. MLB.com's Scott Merkin spoke with White Sox International Scouting Director Marco Paddy about the addition. Paddy called Mendoza a "plus defensive catcher with an excellent frame for the position". He also stated that, "his abilities to handle a pitching staff and call a game should help him develop quickly". Here is the profile page for Mendoza from the Alex Gonzalez Academy, where he trained.
The #WhiteSox have agreed to terms with international free agent Sydney Pimentel.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) July 3, 2017
Pimentel, 16, is a 6-foot, 170-pound, switch-hitting shortstop from Villa Altagracia, Dominican Republic.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) July 3, 2017
The White Sox are also signing 16 year-old Dominican Shortstop Sidney Pimentel (he is sometimes listed as Sydney Pimentel). Ben Badler of Baseball America reported that Pimentel will receive a $300,000 bonus - the max they can give to any player. Badler calls Pimentel a "skinny Dominican shortstop that plays in the same league that Micker Adolfo was from", in reference to the Dominican Prospect League. According to the official website of the DPL, "The primary goal of the Dominican Prospect League has been to help protect the long-term health and growth of the amateur baseball industry in the Dominican Republic by implementing a new process for evaluating and signing amateur talent on the island and throughout Latin America". The DPL provides MLB teams with an effective vehicle to find talent, develops and prepares prospects both mentally and physically, and aims to improve the quality of infrastructure. The Dominican Prospect League is also trying to repair the image of the entire Dominican baseball community. The DPL recruits more than 100 of the top Dominican amateur players every year from four different regions and they play 25 games that take place in rotating facilities that are owned and operated by the major league clubs.
The White Sox announced the signing of Pimentel on Monday and list him as a 6'0 170 pound switch-hitting shortstop that throws right-handed. The DPL website says that Pimentel "has the length and range for SS and possesses soft hands that allow him to field grounders and get rid of the ball without wasted movement". They also note that he's built to be a leadoff hitter that "sprays balls into the gaps".
Below is a brief scouting video that shows Pimentel in the field and swinging the bat via the DPL website
The current international signing period runs through June 15, 2018 and it will be interesting to see how the White Sox go about their business. There will likely be more signings to come in addition to the two that they've already made. There is also a chance that the club could choose to trade some of its bonus pool to teams in need in order to acquire assets in a different way.
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