While we were busy with and distracted by the Chicago Cubs 2017 postseason run, the front office went out and added legit Cuban catching prospect.
Earlier this month, the Cubs signed international free agent catcher Alex Guerra to a deal worth $300,000. Because Guerra is just 19 years old – and, thus, still subject to the IFA bonus restrictions – this was the maximum bonus the Cubs were allowed to offer. Given the time of year (most teams have already run out of pool space) and the Cubs’ own limitations, then, this was a pretty substantial deal (and especially exciting, given how many recent Cuban IFAs the Cubs were shut out from thanks to MLB’s/USA’s erratic clearance process).
There’s not a ton of information out there on Guerra just yet, but we do know a couple things. For one, he’s apparently most known for his power and defensive abilities (sounds like a Cub already) and was the starting catcher for the Cuban junior national teams in 2013 and 2015. For another, he previously tried to leave the island, but was caught and suspended from baseball for six months. According to Guerra, himself, those six months cost him a potentially larger bonus and could even be the reason the Cubs were able to get him in the first place.
And while I’m glad the Cubs were able to sign a player of his caliber, this is a sobering reminder of how scary and dangerous the defection process can still be. In any case, it doesn’t sound like Guerra holds any grudges and he’s just excited to start his Major League career.
Given his age and time away from baseball, you can tentatively expect Guerra to start his professional career somewhere in the lower minor leagues, if not even rookie ball for an extended stint. For what it’s worth, Arizona Phil (The Cubs Reporter) writes that Guerra will report to Minor League camp in Mesa in 2018, but could plausibly receive a non-roster invitation to Spring Training. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see on that front.
The Cubs are obviously well-covered at catcher in the Major Leagues with Willson Contreras just now blossoming into a star, and one of their top prospects is catcher Victor Caratini, but like pitching, you can never have enough young, quality backstops (especially if they have some power). Guerra will be a nice addition to a Minor League system recently emptied of its top prospects.