International notes from around (the world?) baseball …
- Nothing is brewing or breaking on Cuban prospect Lazaro “Lazarito” Armenteros, but that in and of itself is an update. If you recall, he was supposed to make a decision last Wednesday, but it never came to be. Every day that passes, then, increases the likelihood that he will simply wait to sign until the next IFA period opens on July 2 to sign with a team. At just 16 years old, he can afford the wait so long as he stays extra safe between now and July.
- Of course, that will then leave him without the courtship of the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs (among many others), but that doesn’t mean he won’t get the money he wants. And speaking of the money he wants (rumored to be roughly $20 million), Craig Calcaterra questions whether he is actually worth that contract (NBS Sports) from a purely historical (non-baseball value) standpoint.
- Jesse Sanchez recaps the Gurriel brother’s story, details, stats and projections in a nice comprehensive piece for MLB.com. Among the newer items, it appears that the duo began their defection process after “mysteriously” disappearing from the Cuban team late last week, and are now working out in an undisclosed location. They did send out a message that they were alright and working towards their dream of playing in MLB.
- Yulieski Gurriel and Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. hope to play on the same team together, but that will be logistically difficult. If you recall, Yulieski is already Major League-ready and 31 years old. Moreover, he is not subject to any IFA restrictions and has reportedly (per Sanchez) already established residency in Panama. Lourdes Jr., on the other hand, is just 22 years old and is considered more of a prospect. If he doesn’t wait to sign until October (when he turns 23), he will be subject to the same IFA restrictions as Lazarito. If he can hold out until October, though, all 30 MLB clubs will be eligible to sign Lourdes with penalties or restrictions associated with the deal. Given how early they both are in the process, I suspect that will be the case.
- Back in December, we learned that the Cubs were connected/interested in a handful of Cuban prospects. Among those mentioned was 16-year-old pitching prospect Adrian Morejon, who’s been turning heads of late. Back in January, though, we learned that the Cubs – who were one time favorites to land the young lefty – were no longer the most likely destination, due to increased attention from around the league. Now, Ben Badler is reaffirming that fact, by reporting the Padres as favorites to land a pitcher whom Badler says “would easily be the best pitching prospect on the traditional July 2 market” if he were from Venezuela or the Dominican Republic. It’s a bummer for the Cubs, who may have missed out on yet another young, Cuban pitching prospect.
- The Giants, who’ve already blown their cap in the current IFA period, are “pretty much tapped out budget-wise,” and don’t figure to sign any more big international free agents. I get the sense that if any more prominent IFA restricted players become available (or decide to sign now), their only realistic options are the Cubs and the Dodgers – which is why a few guys might be waiting until July 2.
- There has been increased chatter on Shohei Ohtani lately, but don’t take that as indication of an imminent posting. The Hokkaido Fighters have little reason to post him right now, with the compensation cap limited to just $20 million. So, status quo, on that front. Even still, he and his team have been training in Arizona the past few weeks, which has provided the opportunity for a lot of eyes-on MLB scouting, and the results were extremely positive. According to ESPN’s Eric Longenhagen, he is the best pitching prospect in the world: “We’re talking good size, athleticism, upper-90’s heat, plus curveball projection, and evidence to support marked growth of a changeup and command. He has true top-of-the-rotation ceiling.”
- Barry Bloom has more on Ohtani, including the unlikelihood of a posting anytime soon. Unfettered free agency for Japanese players doesn’t commence until they’ve played nine NPB seasons. Ohtani is going into his fourth. Of course, his team could post him any time sooner and receive $20 million, but they could just as easily do that four years down the road, when Ohtani would still be be just 25 years old (could you imagine if he was posted in the crazy big 2018 free agent class?). There is some talk that the Fighters would post Ohtani, if he asked, but that’s far from a guarantee. It might still be some time before he throws in MLB parks, so baseball fans will just have to continue enjoying him dominate in the NPB (on the mound and in the outfield).
- Also included in Longenhagen’s notes, is more on the Gurriel brothers, Lazarito’s plan, Morejon to the Padres, the Braves and Padres expected coup in the next IFA period and more.
- The St. Louis Cardinals have been suspiciously quiet on the high end of the international market over the past few years, but that might change starting on July 2. In addition to the Braves and Padres, the Cardinals might open the purse and exceed their international bonus pool by quite a bit in 2016. They certainly have the money (having spent very little, relatively speaking, in free agency this year) and everyone has the need, so we might finally see them go big in IFA.