After signing top international prospects like Eddy Julio Martinez, Jonathan Sierra, and Jose Albertos (among many others) during the 2015-2016 IFA period, the Cubs found themselves in the penalty box for the 2016-2017 period.
And for those unaware, “being in the penalty box” is just another way to say that the Cubs could not hand out bonuses greater than $300,000 to any one international free agent subject to the IFA restrictions.
For the most part, that eliminated the Cubs’ ability to sign any of the consensus top talents available.
But that doesn’t mean they didn’t sign any talent, and $300,000 is actually a fairly significant bonus, especially when you consider that the Cubs’ league-smallest bonus pool was just over $2 million.
In fact, thanks to some fancy exceptions, it doesn’t even mean they didn’t give out bonuses greater than $300,000.
At Baseball America, Ben Badler gives his review of the Chicago Cubs transactions during the 2016-2017 International Free Agency period, and you’ll want to give it a read. But before we get into some of the specifics, I want to clear up one confusing element.
In total, the Cubs signed 29 different players this period, with the top signing, according to Badler, being the $400,000 given to right-handed pitcher Manuel Rodriguez of Mexico.
Of course, I just finished telling you that the Cubs couldn’t give out a bonus greater than $300,000 … so what gives? Well, there is at least one MLB exception to the $300K limit for players who come from Mexican League teams. Namely, because Mexican League teams keep up to 75% of an exiting player’s bonus, MLB has allowed “penalty box” teams like the Cubs to sign individuals for more than $300,000. Only the amount that actually goes to the player is subject to the restriction. As Badler puts it: “That’s how the Cubs, one of the most aggressive teams when it comes to scouting and signing players out of Mexico, signed right-hander Manuel Rodriguez for $400,000 from Yucatan last year in July.”
According to Badler, Rodriguez was his league’s rookie of the year in 2015, when he posted a 1.84 ERA in 49 innings of relief. Unfortunately, that success did not last, like, at all.
In 2016, Rodriguez earned a 5.06 ERA with a troubling 15-13 K/BB ratio. Even still, that effort was over just 16 innings and he’s just 20 years old. Given his relative youth, projectable frame and, oh yea, 97 MPH fastball, I think the Cubs did well to go after Rodriguez. With some solid coaching and a few years, that sort of “stuff” could translate into a nice back-end reliever, if not more.
Here are some of the more interesting, according to Badler, Cubs’ international signings from the last year. They are very young, but many have some impressive tools:
- Jonathan Bruzal, 17, LHP ($300,000)
- Ricardo Verenzuela, 17, CF ($300,000)
- Danis Correa, 17, RHP ($225,000)
- Josue Huma, 17, SS ($140,000)
- Jeinser Brete, 17, IF ($100,000)
- Carlos Paula, 16, RHP ($100,000)
- Ferrold Heredia, 17, LHP ($50,000)
- Carlos Pacheco, 17, CF ($100,000)
- Francisco Garcia, 18, RHP ($100,000)
- Didier Vargas, 18, LHP ($60,000)
For individual reports on each of the players above, as well as an overall review of the Cubs efforts this IFA period, head over to Baseball America. For young international players like the 29 or so signed by the Cubs in the last year, Ben Badler and BA are among the best in the business.