Throughout the offseason – and really over last season as well – the Chicago Cubs continued to be as aggressive internationally as they had been for the several years prior. However, lately, the focus of those IFA pursuits have largely transitioned from position players to pitchers.
Back at the beginning of March, for example, we learned that the Chicago Cubs were interested in two more young, Cuban starting pitchers, Norge Ruiz and Vladimir Gutierrez.
Neither pitcher has yet signed, but the latter recently held his final showcase before making a decision, and the Cubs were reportedly in attendance among many other teams (Ben Badler – Baseball America).
Here’s what I had to say on Gutierrez, last time his name popped up in association with the Cubs:
Gutierrez, 20, is one of Badler’s “favorite pitchers in Cuba,” and comes with a much more projectable frame. Standing at 6’3″ 170lbs, Gutierrez is a bit more of a traditionally sized starting pitcher with an 88-93 MPH fastball, expected to reach the mid-90s when all is said and done. His curveball, also rated as “plus,” comes in for some praise, as well.
According to Badler, the Cubs, Astros, Dodgers, Royals, Braves, Cardinals, Padres and Reds were among the teams with “notable contingents” at the young pitchers’ showcase on Friday. Most left impressed. According to multiple reports, Gutierrez was hitting between 93-96 MPH with his fastball, while impressing with a potentially plus curveball as well.
Although, as a mostly two-pitch pitcher in Cuba, his changeup and slider came up short, and scouts agree that both need some work. Indeed, scouts also agree that there are too many moving parts in his delivery from the windup, and that he will need to sync up quite a bit to reduce the control issues. Still, with professional instruction, many believe that he can find success in the Major Leagues.
Even though this was Gutierrez’s final showcase before he’ll make a decision, that doesn’t mean he’ll decide right away. If he chooses to sign right now, for example, he can sign with teams like the Dodgers and Cubs, who have already exceeded their bonus pool in this round of international free agency (ends June 15). But, if he waits past July 2, when the next period opens up, the Cubs will be unable to sign him for more than $300,000, due to the penalties for exceeding their bonus pool in this IFA period. Of course, if he waits until July 2, he’ll have other suitors to choose from who will be capable and willing to offer him much more than $300,000.
So, then, it’s pretty much now or never for teams like the Cubs.
There’s much more on Gutierrez, his background and his decision in Badler’s report at Baseball America, so I’ll encourage you to check it out (there’s even video of Gutierrez pitching at his showcase).
While he would obviously be a nice pickup for the Cubs, who are lacking in older, impact arms at the moment, they clearly have some serious competition for his services. We’ll keep you posted on Gutierrez’s decision, as well as other notable international prospects as the current period winds down.