Although it’s never at the fore of your mind when it comes to November transactions, there is a little something that happens frequently this month: international free agent signings.
I know, it’s weird, because (1) the IFA period historically opened in July (now in January), and most of the signings are already tentatively in place by the time the period opens, so there are very few uncommitted guys to sign come August/February, much less November; and (2) teams are kicking off big league and minor league free agency in November, so there’s a whole lot else to do and focus on! Yet every year, there are stray IFA signings that come through in November. The reason? I suspect – for the Cubs, at least – it’s the new annual budget getting set for baseball operations, and they can formally push through new signings that they were perhaps talking about with players and their representatives following the summer scouting period.
Whatever the precise reason, it can be a particularly good time to find pitching prospects, in particular. Very young pitching prospects are MUCH harder to scout with any confidence than very young position prospects (ever wonder why the biggest IFA bonuses are always position players? That’s why), so there’s often a period of extra scouting that goes on in the summer to get as much info as possible on younger pitchers who’ve started to grow more, add more velocity, work on pitches, etc.
Anyway, a new batch of Cubs IFA signings from the Dominican Republic just dropped today on the official transaction wire, and it tracks with this historical schedule:
LHP Kevin Valdez, 20
RHP Jensi Ramirez, 17
RHP Yafrerlyn Vasquez, 17
RHP Eligio Paredes, 17
The four arms will presumably participate in offseason instructs at the Cubs’ facility in the Dominican Republic before the organization makes a decision on their placement for Spring Training 2022 and the season thereafter.
Because the Cubs’ IFA pool for the current period was used primarily on bonus babies like Cristian Hernandez and Moises Ballesteros, you can assume these four are lower-cost signings. That doesn’t mean they are non-prospects, however, because of the scouting cycles I mentioned above. In fact, this is precisely the area where you need to land some “wins” every now and again – pure scouting wins. Here’s hoping we hear more about these arms at some point in the next couple years. If any becomes a legit prospect, there’s your win.