The Cincinnati Reds have been doing their best to pick up pitching out of Cuba over the past five years and it’s paid off in spades. The signings of Aroldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias have been huge for the organization. Chapman has been the most dominant reliever in baseball over the last five seasons. After a rough start to the year, Raisel Iglesias has been a huge bright spot in the second half of the year and is showing things that pretty much only the Reds seemed to believe that he could do when they offered him a contract, and that was be a dominant starting pitcher.
Where the Reds haven’t found themselves too often is picking up Cuban position players. They have signed just two over the last 10 years. The first was 25-year-old Felix Perez back in 2010 for $550,000. He played in the system for five years, reaching Triple-A. He was invited to spring training with the big league club in 2015, but he was released at the end of the spring and signed with a team in the Mexican League (and crushed it). The other position player signing was of Reydel Medina in August of 2013. The then 20-year-old signed for $400,000 and has spent the last two years in rookie ball, playing in both Arizona and Billings. He’s hit for big time power, but he’s struggled everywhere else offensively.
Those two signings are a far cry from the pitchers that the Reds have signed, but we can tell by the amount of money they paid for the pitchers versus the position players that the talent gap was probably very, very wide there as well. The Cincinnati Reds may be trying to change that this year. Later today they have a private workout set up with 20-year-old Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez.
Sources: Cuban OF prospect Eddie Julio Martinez still available. He’s scheduled to work out for Reds in the DR on Tues. Giants still in mix.
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) September 14, 2015
Martinez is the top international prospect this signing season and is rumored to cost a team somewhere in the $10M range for a signing bonus. More on what that signing would do to the Reds later. Scouts have compared the Cuban outfielder to Andruw Jones for his ability to hit for power, run and play defense. That’s obviously very high praise, and if you look at scouting reports his future grade are all 60’s or 70’s, which you just don’t see too often. He would probably need to spend a year or two in the minor leagues after signing.
There are some questions about whether he will sign this year or if he will wait until the next signing period to sign as a few more big pocket teams will then be able to offer him a contract who currently can’t because they spent too much in past years on international players and are still suffering from penalties.
That brings us back to what a signing like this would do for the Reds. With how the current landscape sits, a signing like this would push any team over their “allotted” amount to spend and would push them into severe punishment. The team would have to pay a 100% tax on the overage (which in this case would probably be roughly $8-9M), nearly doubling the actual money the team has to spend to sign the player. It would also eliminate them from spending more than $300,000 on any single player over the next two seasons on the international side of things. It would be a third big signing of the period for the Reds if they could make it happen. They’ve already inked two bigger prospects this year, grabbing shortstop Miguel Hernandez for $650,000 and outfielder Cristian Olivo for $1,000,000 earlier in the summer.
While the Reds have had two big signings this year already, last year the biggest signing they made was for $400,000. The year before it was for $730,000. Prior to that, you had to go back to the signing of Felix Perez to find someone signing for more than $500,000. The Reds have picked their spots when spending internationally and have generally avoided spending big amounts on individual players, opting to spread the money out a little bit more and hope to find several guys in the $100,000-$300,000 range. If they believe that Eddy Julio Martinez is a true difference maker, his signing will be chump change compared to what he’s actually worth and the team can worry less about missing out on some bigger priced guys on the international market in the next two seasons. Of course, the Reds are not the only team interested in Martinez, as he’s had private workouts with several other teams including several big market teams.
Here’s some video from Baseball America of Martinez: