As expected, and despite spending restrictions, the Chicago Cubs locked down several prospects on the first day of the new International Free Agency period, at least a couple of whom are considered among the top 30-50 prospects in the class.
Per Baseball America, the Cubs agreed to sign the two top prospects out of Mexico, 17-year-old righty Florencio Serrano and 16-year-old shortstop Luis Verdugo. Each is expected to get a signing bonus near or exceeding $1 million – a level commensurate with their top 30ish standing in the class – despite the Cubs’ limitation on spending more than $300,000 on any one prospect. As we’ve previously discussed, signing bonuses are unique in Mexico, with up to 75% going to the local team, and only the amount that actually goes to the player is subject to MLB’s IFA rules. Well played, Cubs.
You can read scouting reports at BA on Serrano and Verdugo here at BA. Among their comments on Serrano:
“A fluent English speaker with a strong lower half, Serrano has trended up with his stuff over the past year. He has good arm speed on a fastball that sits at 88-92 mph and has topped out at 94 mph. He throws a curveball and a changeup, with his hard curveball a potential out pitch that some scouts project as a future plus pitch. Serrano has some effort to his delivery that adds some risk he might end up in the bullpen, but he should get the opportunity to develop in the minor leagues as a starter.”
MLB Pipeline also has a scouting report on Verdugo here, and among their comments:
“The top position prospect from Mexico, Verdugo is best known for his strong arm and defensive prowess in the middle of the diamond. He’s athletic with good instincts on both sides of the ball, but he is a below average runner right now. Verdugo is a contact hitter, shows a good bat path through the strike zone and puts the ball in play. However, the belief is that he could still improve on his overall hit tool and that he will once he enters a team’s academy.”
BA adds that the Cubs also reached a $300,000 agreement with Colombian shortstop Fabian Pertuz, and an undisclosed agreement with Dominican outfielder Alexander Ovalles.
There figure to be many more signings throughout the 2017-18 IFA period, the last one before the Cubs are freed from the spending restrictions they incurred by overspending in the 2015-16 class.
That the Cubs have been able to bring in upper-tier prospects from Mexico like Verdugo and Serrano (and Jose Albertos and Isaac Paredes last year) during their penalty years is a credit not only to their willingness to spend, but also to their forethought in planning ahead to assiduously scout Mexico in tandem with blowing their IFA pool back in 2015.
It remains to be seen whether the Cubs will spend their full IFA bonus pool this year ($4.75 million). If they elect to trade some of their pool, they may find that slots are more valuable now that the CBA has imposed hard caps on IFA spending (no more going over and incurring penalties – you simply cannot go over now).