July 2 is a date you’ve been hearing for months with respect to a variety of Cuban prospects, including Jorge Soler. Now that Soler is officially in the fold, you may have allowed yourself to forget why July 2 was a notable date. Let me remind you: today marks the start of this year’s international free agent signing period (oversimplified explanation: the date on which you can finally sign 16-year-old prospects). It was notable this year, in particular, because the rules for this year’s period are going to be different than in years past, thanks to the new CBA. In short, teams are limited to $2.9 million in international bonuses this year, lest they incur penalties that include an inability to sign as many prospects as you’d like.
The Cubs kicked off this year’s period by signing 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Frandy De La Rosa. A 6’1″, 180 pound switch hitter, De La Rosa was ranked as Baseball America’s 19th best international prospect this year, and MLB.com had him at number 10, while John Sickels had him number 2. Sickels described De La Rosa as having “enormous potential if he can stick at shortstop.” Baseball America calls his swing “smooth.” Let’s be real: there’s only so much you can say about a 16-year-old prospect.
The Cubs gave De La Rosa a $700K bonus, which is substantial, given the spending limitation. To appropriately calibrate your excitement, in the free-spending days of the past, De La Rosa probably would have received closer to $1 million, which would have made him one of the Cubs’ top five international signings (based on dollars) in the past five years. Heck, had he been allowed to sign before July 2, he probably could’ve received many millions. That is all to say: don’t let the $700K make you think he’s not a solid prospect. He is.
But, here’s the caveat: he’s 16. So many things can happen in the next six(!) years of development that we may never hear from him again. Quick: how are last year’s big signings Mark Malave and Enrique Acosta doing?
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be excited about the signing, of course. It’s just about keeping that excitement in a reasonable range. Here’s hoping the Cubs make a few more of these signings in the coming days.