The Undrafted Free Agent Signing Period is Officially Open - Now the Cubs Go Recruiting

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The Undrafted Free Agent Signing Period is Officially Open – Now the Cubs Go Recruiting

Chicago Cubs

The undrafted free agent signing period is now officially open this morning, and there is no question that there are tons and tons and tons of really interesting undrafted prospects out there eligible to sign.

With a draft that lasted just five rounds, we know that great prospects emerge in the 6th round and later every single year. A whopping 75 of the top 200 draft prospects, per MLB Pipeline, did not get drafted this year. It’s eye-popping how much undrafted talent is out there right now.

Where there *IS* a question is how many of those kids can you actually get to sign in an environment where the maximum bonus they can receive is just $20,000. In previous drafts, which ran 40 rounds, you could offer up to $125,000 to later-drafted or undrafted prospects to sign and have it not count against your bonus pool (and the Cubs did that frequently). Now, with 35 fewer rounds, the pool of players can get less than 1/6 that amount.

The vast majority of good, undrafted prospects will not sign right now for such a small amount.

That said, there are going to be players who simply want to become professionals right now. College seniors will be the most heavily targeted group, of course, but even they have been granted eligibility by the NCAA to return to school next year if they want. Of course, with questions about playing time on overcrowded college rosters (think of all the extra high schoolers going to college beyond what is typical), some seniors and juniors may be better off signing now for a small bonus and then getting their professional careers started.

For the Cubs, the process of recruiting – that’s really more of what it is – actually started in the predraft interview process.

“We put a lot of effort and time into showing players what we, the Cubs, have to offer,” new Cubs Scouting Director Dan Kantrovitz told The Athletic before the draft. “Things like developmental resources, technology and how thoughtful our player development operation is in general. Rather than just telling players that we were impressed with them, I think we took it a step forward and showed them. What I mean by that is, in some cases, we literally created an example player plan similar to what our current minor-leaguers see. So we gave them an idea of, one, why we like them, and two, how we think they could thrive in our system.

“The players seemed to really appreciate seeing how our scouting and player development work together, obviously backed by a pretty powerful R&D engine. But really all towards the singular goal of developing them. I think that’s something that really resonated with the players we spoke with. Needless to say, I feel like our player development operation is a huge selling point to players and we want to make sure that players were aware as they decide which path to choose.”

Obviously the Cubs invested HEAVILY in a player development overhaul over the past two years, so hopefully, when it comes to recruiting the undrafted free agents who want to sign anyway, the Cubs can have a little edge. For what it’s worth, I heard from multiple sources that what the Cubs put together for these interviews and presentations was genuinely very impressive. They may land some of their top undrafted targets.

To that end, I wouldn’t necessarily expect the Cubs to sign a huge volume of undrafted guys this year, despite the small draft. There isn’t going to be a normal minor league season, so you don’t need as many players right now to fill out rosters. Moreover, with minor league affiliates likely shrinking next year, the Cubs won’t need as many players heading into 2021, either.

Instead, I’d expect the Cubs to target a specific list of guys that they’ve already been talking to, in the hopes that they can add a small number of guys they really, really like. Maybe some are already lined up. Maybe others will require more recruiting pitches. This is truly an odd process.

As Kantrovitz put it to NBCS Chicago, if the organization can get one big leaguer out of this unique pool of undrafted talent, that’d be a “resounding success.” I am really excited to see how this process plays out.

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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.