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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.

  • Crockett

    I like this approach. Sign two well known, high-end guys and then just suck up about 10-15 16 year old’s who will all become little Starlins.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Ditto.

      • Bric

        Busy day indeed and an interesting point you bring up. Brett, earlier today you reported a couple of DR kids in the minors both got suspensions for PEDs. Now they sign this other kid who’s had 2 known fraudulent issues and he’s only 22 (as far as we know). The question, Luke, Brett, and co. is this: Is PED testing a usual part of a physical for a prospective contract? Just wondering how detailed this vetting process is.

        • Cyranojoe

          Yeahhhh… I’m not so confident in a kid who turns a 92mph pitch into 98 “during his time off”. If that’s not PEDs or other wonky stuff, I’ll be rather shocked.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            Then you’ll be rather shocked at lot of pitchers. Ben Wells added several MPH at the very end of his senior year in high school. Trey McNutt jumped from the low 90s to the mid 90s just before the draft the year he was taken. P.J. Francescon has shown a harder fast ball than the Cubs expected him to have when he was taken.

            Players age, train, mature, improve their mechanics, accept coaching, and generally become better players at different rates. If Paniagua spent a year working out and working on the mound with some good coaching, adding 6 MPH isn’t unreasonable at all.

            Now if all he did was lay around and eat potato chips, that’s a different story. I think if that were the case, though, the Cubs would have been more skeptical.

            • Colin

              boom roasted

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          The vetting is as thorough as resources allow, and the Cubs have some significant resources in the Caribbean. It would be a tremendous mistake to start assuming that all IFA from that part of the world are lying about their age, doing drugs, or are otherwise tainted. A very small percentage of players who sign contracts have these issues. On the whole, the system works.

          • Bric

            Thanks for the response and I wasn’t thinking all the kids from the DR lie about their age and take PEDS. Actually, across all of the teams it’s probably shown that just as many Americans dose as international players. But it was just Brett’s comment that this kid was probably thoroughly vetted before he signed today and his earlier comment about the two other kids that got caught was kind of interesting.

            The assertion was that 16 year old kids in the DR get caught up in a culture that pushes them to use PEDs in order to get American contracts and that further development of the Cubs’ facilities should cut down on this thinking. But if that’s true, these kids were doping before they were signed, not after.

            If that’s the case it seems the vetting process is somewhat selective when it comes to handing out contracts. Paniagua was only very closely inspected because of his history, not because it’s a standard policy. Just speculating.

          • ColoCubFan

            What happened that he couldn’t sign last year with the Yankees?

      • J Wilson

        Brett, I don’t enjoy being a glass half-empty guy, but can you (or anyone) post video of Castro’s ABs from 2010 and from today? I remember his legs being much quieter and his stance being only slightly open, as compared with the wide open stance and front leg roundhouse of today. I grimace seeing his erroneous approach, and I’m sorry, but it IS wrong. I wish it wasn’t, but the team that preaches and executes patient ABs better than anyone is the team that’s put up > 3 runs for 2 million consecutive games. The longer this habit continues, the harder it’ll be to break.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Imagine what they might be able to do with a much larger pool of IFA funds next season. Depending on where they finish, the Cubs could wind up with over $5 million to spend.

      • Jimmy james

        What happens with this money if the contract is voided…do they get it back next year, like draft picks that aren’t signed?

    • Richard Nose

      Sweet little baby Starlins.

    • Kyle

      Ditto.

      If you are going to drop this much money, an intriguing 22-year-old like this is much more palatable to me than a 16-year-old. Way too much happens between 16 and the big leagues to make these guys any sort of predictable. Castro being an excellent example.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    I’m glad this one got done.

    • Scotti

      I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that JCP (TM) starts his career as a “old for every league he will play in” guy and that it doesn’t matter one bit. Some cats get started late (injury, missions work, strange dealings with other countries, etc.) and that has no real impact on what REALLY matters–experience for your league.

      Discount, or upgrade, a guy if he has too much or very little past baseball experience, not his age. Far too often there are reasonable reasons behind those circumstances.

  • mudge

    Great work, Brett. Sure beats the rumors!

  • Martin

    Almora, Baez, Soler, Paniagua…

    How much of the Cubs top 10 prospects from this time last year won’t be in their top 10 at the end of this season?

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    If hes 22 years old then why didnt they just sign him before the July 2nd start of the new international free agent signing period? Then they could have just saved themselves $1.5 mil of the $2.9 mill they had right?

    • Bric

      Because the suspension from his prior contract with the Yankees expired today.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    nvm sorry just read all the way through. Brett anyway we could bring the edit button back?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’m working on it. It’s a busy time right now, and edit buttons aren’t the priority. In the interim, proof-reading is your friend. :)

  • Master Gonzo

    If this guy works out, it will add a nice splash to the mantie-wetting party in 2015/6.

  • Wester

    Boy I wish I could edit this useless post…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Can’t tell if serious …

      But, in case:

      I’m working on it. It’s a busy time right now, and edit buttons aren’t the priority. In the interim, proof-reading is your friend. :)

      • Wester

        Not serious at all…you’ve got much much larger fish to fry than an edit button. More of a satirical comment towards all of the comments that are serious. Keep up the good work Brett.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Thanks, Wester. (Which I always read in my head as “Webster,” I’m sorry to say.)

          • Professional_High_A

            this tangent is the best thing i’ve seen all day. cub fans trolling cub fans= ultimate futility.

          • Wester

            When I read that it makes me thing ” ‘choo talkin bout Willis?” but then I realize I’m thinking of Gary Coleman…and then I’m just confused.

  • Njriv

    What’s his ceiling?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I don’t want to go there until I have a better idea how much movement he has on his fastball and how reliably he can throw his slider and changeup for strikes.

      But Baseball America’s Ben Badler has already Tweeted that he’d be in the Cubs’ Top 30 somewhere. That probably means his ceiling is no lower than a No 3/4 starter.

      • Assman22

        Should have a better idea in a few weeks once he gets going in Zona. Paniagua could be a big timer for the Cubs and at a fraction of what a couple others cost earlier this season. Glad that source was right too, I was going to start questioning his input if he had missed this one :)

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          All appropriate props, by the way.

  • cubchymyst

    After reading the Ben Bradley article about when he signed with the Yankees. I am excited about this pick up.

    Yanks thought he had above-average potential on both curve and change-up

  • babe ruth

    hey brett!! i was thinking that it would be nice if you could do a live video chat somtime on livestream.com or justin.tv, or whatever site you would prefer. i think it would be great if you did this while doing your 30 hour marathon, at the trade deadline

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Not a bad idea, though I think I have a face for writing.

      • Scotti

        Don’t sell yourself short. You have a face for editing…

  • Tommy

    Dodgers have made an offer to the Cubs for Dempster. It is unknown whether Zach Lee was in the offer.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It is also unknown whether Matt Kemp was in the offer…

      • Turn Two

        Ha- one day people will learn that you don’t get teams top prospects for rentals.

        • Toby

          You mean like a John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander or Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson?

      • Tommy

        Hey man, just typing what the article said. Why the sarcasm?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          It wasn’t directed at you, it was directed at Bruce.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    I really hope its Zach Lee but idk, sweetening the pot could mean Allen Webster offer or Chris Reed or Angel Sanchez who is a kid is quite projectable but having a bad year though. If the cubs got zach lee i would jump for joy

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  • Leroy K.

    45,000???? wow….That’s amazing…

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