We’re now a week into the 2015-16 IFA signing period and, while the Cubs have reportedly linked up with enough talent to put them well over their budget and into the stiffest penalties for the next two periods, we haven’t heard much since that first day. For the most part, the agreements reported on that first day are the ones that have been wink-wink-nudge-nudge agreed to well in advance of July 2. That incorporates most of the top available prospects, with a small handful of exceptions – the players still considering offers, players too young to sign yet, and, this year, a number of Cuban prospects.
The top currently-available Cuban prospect is outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez, who is considered one of the top overall prospects in the entire class. Although he’s drawn strong attention, he decided not to sign when the period opened last week, and has been considering offers. The Cubs have been attached to Martinez at times over the past month or so, but they’ve not been discussed as a favorite for his services.
To that end, Jesse Sanchez reports that the Dodgers and Giants are the favorites to sign the 20-year-old, though the Cubs, White Sox, Rangers and Astros are also listed as each having worked out Martinez privately at least twice. Because the Cubs, like the Dodgers and Giants, look to be blowing out their pool, however, Sanchez sees them – as opposed to the White Sox, Rangers, and Astros – as the dark horse in the race for Martinez. So, I guess that’s a positive sign, even if the Dodgers and Giants are the favorites.
What’s going to make this additionally tricky for the Cubs is the fact that the Dodgers and Giants each have a slightly stronger incentive to go over the top here because they’re trying to keep Martinez away from a key divisional rival.
Keep in mind on Martinez: whatever he gets will essentially be doubled when the 100% overage tax is factored in. So, if Martinez gets more than $10 million, as many think he will, that’s essentially a $20 million+ investment in a prospect. That is not to say it isn’t worth making the move, but the Cubs do not have unlimited resources right now. That means $20 million spent on Martinez is $20 million that cannot be spent on a midseason acquisition or to beef up a free agent pursuit in the offseason. It also means less money available for addition Cuban free agents that could become available over the course of the next 11 months (the Cubs’ penalties for overspending in this period will not kick in until July 2016). Another top pitching prospect, Vladimir Gutierrez only just became a free agent this week, for example.
Within a few years, it may very well (hopefully) be the case that the Cubs, if they like a player, have the resources to not worry about these kinds of things. For now, however, there’s a balancing act at play.