Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

Busy news night.

Today, the Chicago Cubs made a *huge* international signing, inking 22-year-old righty Juan Carlos Paniagua to a $1.5 million deal. The 22-year-old righty has a fastball that can touch 98 mph, but is typically in the mid-90s. He’s got a quality slider, and a good changeup.

That the Cubs gave him $1.5 million – more than half of their $2.9 million bonus pool for the 2012-13 international signing period, speaks to how highly they think of him (and how desperate they are for young pitching).

But there is a little more to the Paniagua story. From Ben Badler:

Like any international signing, Paniagua will still require a background investigation and the contract approval of Major League Baseball, which in Paniagua’s case has been a problem before.

Paniagua, 22, originally signed with Arizona as Juan Carlos Collado for $17,000 on May 8, 2009. He pitched in Arizona’s Dominican Summer League program for parts of two seasons with a pending contract (an option that is no longer allowed) but had his deal terminated due to fraudeulent paperwork and was declared ineligible to sign for one year.

During his time off, his fastball rose from peaking at 92 mph to touching 98 mph, and in 2011 he signed with the Yankees for $1.1 million as Juan Carlos Paniagua. MLB also terminated that contract due to what the league called “falsified documents” and declared him ineligible to sign for one year, a penalty that ended today.

Now, before you say those are red flags, you have to remember: it might not have been his fault. As a young kid coming out the DR, this stuff often happens TO you, rather than BY you. I’m not saying it’s not something to make you a little squeamish, but if the Cubs were willing to drop such a huge chunk of their international budget on him, I’d say they’ve vetted him fully.

Paniagua probably immediately slots in as one of the more interesting Cubs pitching prospects, and will probably see some action later this year in the lower minors. Next year will probably be the real year to watch him (hopefully) progress.

Together with the signing of Dominican shortstop Frandy De La Rosa for $700K, the Cubs have now spent at least $2.2 million of their $2.9 million international signing budget (on which they can go over by a bit, subject to certain restrictions). I’d guess the remaining $700K will be spread out over a number of signings, from which many of tomorrow’s superstars emerge.

Starlin Castro only cost the Cubs $45,000.

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