As you know, the newly-implemented collective bargaining agreement dramatically limits the amount of money teams can spend on international signing bonuses, unless teams are willing to pay a steep tax, and forgo future top signings (not unlike the penalties now a part of the Draft). For all teams, that limit will be $2.9 million this year, before changing into stratified amounts next year, based on a team’s record in 2012.
That restriction, however, doesn’t kick in until July 2, which is how, for example, the Chicago Cubs were able to agree to a nine-year, $30 million deal with Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler. So, until July 2, teams are going to be as aggressive as possible in signing eligible players.
To that end, the Cubs are reportedly interested in another newly-eligible Cuban free agent, 23-year-old pitcher Armando Rivero. The right-handed power arm uses a three-pitch mix, and has a fastball that sits in the mid 90s, but reportedly reached the upper 90s in workouts last year. He was a closer in Cuba, and one of the better ones. At 6’3″ and 195 lbs, he’s certainly got the body of a power pitcher. Other teams said to be interested include the Yankees, White Sox, Dodgers, Mets, and Indians.
Given his advanced age, and role in the bullpen, Rivero is the kind of prospect who could move quickly up the farm system ladder.
Teams have been scouting Rivero for months, and, although he isn’t the prospect that Soler is (or even, perhaps, Gerardo Concepcion is), he’s still someone in whom plenty of teams have interest. We might hear more about him in the next two weeks.
(The international spending limitations in the new CBA do not apply to players older than 23, or who have played a certain number of years in a recognized professional league. I’ll confess I’m still a bit fuzzy on the particulars of this exception, but, given Rivero’s age – 23, as of at least last November – it’s possible that he’s pushing right up against this exception. If so, there may not be the same impetus for him to sign before July 2 as there was, for example, with Jorge Soler.)