The 2015 International Signing Period ended yesterday. For the next two-and-a-half weeks there will be no international signings allowed. Teams will then be allowed to open things back up on July 2nd and a new crop of prospects, as well as holdovers from the last year.
The Cincinnati Reds are in a rebuilding mode. They’ve stated that a big part of that is building through the draft and the international scene. The draft has passed us by and the Reds, in my opinion, did quite well. Now they look towards the international signing period, where they have the second most money to spend. Sort of.
Each team is given a set amount of money based upon how they performed the year before, with the worst teams getting more money than the best. Of course, that doesn’t really matter because teams are willing to pay the penalties every year to sign talent beyond their allowed spending money. What does make the 2016 signing period interesting is that 33% of the teams in Major League Baseball are ineligible to sign any player for over $300,000. That pretty much eliminates a third of the league from signing any premiere players, who usually sign for at least $750,000.
The Reds seem poised to spend more than their dollar allotment in 2016. We’ve known that for a while though. The question is more about how are they going to spend their money?
The Cincinnati Reds have long been linked to Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez. He initially agreed to a deal with the Reds in January for $6M, but that has now been reportedly pushed to this upcoming signing period and for somewhere around $7M. The current allotment that the Reds can use without penalty is just over $5M for the upcoming signing period. The one signing would push them well over their spending limit without penalty.
Each year the team signs 30-40 guys, and this upcoming signing period isn’t going to be any different. The big question is will they sign any big players beyond Rodriguez? Baseball America’s Ben Badler, the best international prospect writer there is, is tuned in about as well as anyone not working for a Major League Baseball team is when it comes to these kinds of things. Yesterday he held a chat at Baseball America and addressed the Reds and the upcoming signing period.
Deywane (Memphis): Are the Reds only in on one big (A Rod) Intl Free Agent?
Ben Badler: Heard them on a couple guys under the $200K range, but Alfredo Rodriguez is the main one.
As things stand right now, Alfredo Rodriguez may get the largest signing bonus of any of the 2016 international players who are subject to the bonus pool (unless they are over 23-years-old and have five years of pro experience in another country). That usually means you are landing the top player in the class, but that isn’t the case here.
MLB Pipeline currently ranks Rodriguez as the #6 prospect in the class. The scouting reports on him leave plenty to be desired, as he projects to be a well below-average offensive player. Where he does stick out is as a defender at shortstop. Maybe the Reds know something that we don’t when it comes to his bat, but his track record in his one season in Cuba says there’s an enormous gap between where he was at 20-years-old as a hitter and where he needs to be.
If the Reds are going to spend 95% of their money in the 2016 international period on one player it seems awfully strange to see it spent on a player where there are enormous questions about whether he can even be an every day player in the future because no one is sure if he’s ever going to hit enough to make that happen. Every prospect signed in the international period has questions, but a majority of them are because the players being signed are 16 and 17-years-old and still have to develop. Rodriguez is already 22-years-old, so there’s not nearly the same kind of projection left in his tools.
The Reds may have an ace up their sleeve, and hopefully they do. Pinning their entire 2016 international signing on a guy who two years ago couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag in Cuba is awfully risky. It also doesn’t do much to sell to the fan base that you’re rebuilding plan involves going all-in on one player with huge questions surrounding his ability to hit the baseball, while paying him significantly more money than the top player in the class who has been compared to a young Miguel Cabrera or Chipper Jones.