IFA Season is Coming: Out of the Penalty Box, Cubs Already Connected to Top Prospects

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IFA Season is Coming: Out of the Penalty Box, Cubs Already Connected to Top Prospects

Chicago Cubs

Remember when the Cubs could spend more than $300,000 on international free agents? Of course you don’t. Because it’s been like TWO YEARS, MAN.

But, at long last, come July 2, the Cubs will be able to participate in earnest once again in international free agency. Of course, things look a lot different now than they did back when the Cubs last blew out their bonus pool a couple years ago. That concept no longer exists, as teams are now giving a full-on hard cap up to which they can spend. And worse for teams like the Cubs: large market clubs have smaller pools, by default, than smaller market teams. The only way you can outspend your pool now is to trade for extra pool space.

The Cubs, as of right now, will have $4.75 million to spend in international free agency, and will have the ability to trade for up to 60% of that amount in additional space.

Many of the young players who will become eligible to sign on July 2 are working out for teams right now (as they have been for the last couple years if they were significant prospects), and many are already being connected to clubs. In this context, it tends to be the case that if you’re connected to an IFA … you’re signing him.

And if you want to know who is going where this early in the process, Ben Badler at Baseball America is the guy to follow. Recently, the Cubs have popped up twice:


As for the outfield prospect Badler connects to the Cubs, Jose Lopez, you can read his article for more on the 16-year-old speedy center fielder. Badler also shared a video of Lopez participating at the showcase. He looks really athletic, but that swing could use some work (and that’s ok! He’s young!):

In general, Badler mentions that the Cubs are among the teams most aggressively pursuing international pitching prospects. Specifically, the Cubs are listed as the favorites to sign Richard Gallardo, a 6’1″ 187 lbs righty who boasts the “best combination of fastball, offspeed stuff, and control” at a recent MLB international showcase.

From Badler: “Gallardo (6-foot-1, 187 pounds) sat at 89-93 mph, advanced velocity for a 16-year-old with the projection to throw harder. He threw frequent strikes and elevated up and above the zone successfully to generate swing-and-miss. Gallardo also mixed in a 70-75 mph curveball that flashed above-average with good rotation.” That’s SERIOUS velocity for a 16-year-old, and already flashing an above-average curveball? I’m in.

Of course, the thing to keep in mind with international free agency is that the fruits take a long time to show. In fact, it can be multiple years before the best signings in a given class even show up on the radar as legit prospects. From there, it could still be some time before they become possible trade chips, and then even longer before they become possible big leaguers. Consider that Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres were the Cubs’ top two signings five years ago, and they’re only just now possible big leaguers later this season. And those two were about as big-time right out of the gate as you’ll get in traditional international free agency.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.