Remember Eloy Jimenez?
I’ll forgive you if the Matt Garza interlude has sapped your brain of one of the bigger stories from earlier this month. As you may recall, the Chicago Cubs decided to go nuts on the international free agent market this year. Landing big-time prospect after big-time prospect, the Cubs capped it off (well, they aren’t quite done yet) by agreeing to terms with the consensus top prospect on the market this year, 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Eloy Jimenez for a cool $2.8 million.
That happened several weeks ago, but Jimenez hasn’t actually been signed. Why? Well, as you also may recall, although the Cubs are going hog wild in the international market, there are certain spending limitations in place (about which more here), and the super-short version is that the Cubs could have put themselves in a bind if they officially signed Jimenez before they’d added certain international pool slots (except they don’t necessarily have to add any more slots, they might just decide to do so for certain strategic reasons, and they can’t add any more after they officially sign Jimenez to his monster deal … you know what? This is too much for a parenthetical. Just read here and here if you want more).
So, circling back: the Cubs haven’t officially signed Jimenez yet. But it’s coming, according to Jesse Sanchez. Jimenez’s agent tells Sanchez that his client will be officially signing with the Cubs on August 1 or 2 at a press conference in the Dominican Republic. Further, the agent says, Jimenez turned down a $5 million offer to stick to his original deal with the Cubs.
Why August 1 or 2? Well, that’s no coincidence. Since the Trade Deadline is July 31, that’s the last reasonably possible day that the Cubs will add additional international pool money. If it doesn’t happen by then, it probably isn’t happening, and the Cubs will just go ahead and blow the budget completely.
As for the $5 million offer, it sounds pretty incredible, doesn’t it? I’m a loyal guy, but if someone offered me almost twice as much money to sign with another team, I’m not so sure I’d be able to stick to a “my word is my bond” type situation. So why is Jimenez doing it?
Well, there are three possible explanations, and I like to think they all probably inform Jimenez’s decision. First, Jimenez probably really does like the Cubs organization (which has devoted a lot of time and attention to him), and the Cubs do now offer superior facilities in the Dominican Republic. Second, there’s probably a little bit of agent bluster in that $5 million figure. A higher offer than the $2.8 million Jimenez is getting from the Cubs? I totally buy that. Maybe $5 million spread out over a longer period of time or including college or other incentives that kinda-sorta make it $5 million? Yeah, that seems like a possibility. The final reason Jimenez would stick with the Cubs despite the huge offer is that, when it comes to these international prospects in Latin America, I have been led to believe that the pre-July 2 “agreements” to sign are as iron clad as a verbal understanding can possibly be. The same teams work with the same trainers/agents/representatives for years, and no one is interested in losing the trust that is necessary to generate the best deals for the players.
So, good on Jimenez and his family and his agent for sticking with the Cubs. Hopefully he has a long, productive career with the Cubs and everyone winds up thrilled with the decision.