As I type this the Cincinnati Reds signing of 19-year-old Cuban shortstop Jose Garcia (known as Jose Israel Garcia in some places because there were two Jose Garcia’s coming out of Cuba at the same time) isn’t yet official. However all reports are that everything is agreed upon and it’s just awaiting the passing of a physical.
After the initial article was posted yesterday, Baseball America was able to get their hands on some video that you can watch below.
The swing looks good. There’s some bat speed there. With the reports of his arm strength, then seeing the video of him in the field, it’s impressive that he’s got that kind of arm with a short and quick arm action. That can buy you an extra half-second in the field. There’s not too much to get into with the video as it’s just cage hitting and practice fielding with no actual game footage. But, things do look good from what little there is.
Of course, that’s what you would expect to see from a player who got $5M to sign, and cost the team $10M overall because of the penalties paid. The money spent is something that I’d like to focus on a little bit, though. Going back to my time covering the Cincinnati Reds system, here’s the seven largest signing bonuses (all bonuses over $800K) handed out on the international market (not counting Major League deals signed by Aroldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias):
|*Not Official Yet* | **Age when signed**|
What stands out on the list is that all three of the top bonuses handed out are from the current signing period. They all went to older prospects from Cuba. And what’s listed is only what was paid to the player, not accounting for any of the penalties paid for signing the players (this only comes into the play for the top three guys). The team went big in 2008, then essentially stayed quiet on the market for teenagers until 2012 when they signed Jonathan Perez. To be fair, the team did pay for Aroldis Chapman in the middle of that gap. The team was quiet for a few more years in the teenage market before they went big again in 2015 by signing Cristian Olivo for a 7-figure bonus and also handing out $600,000 to Miguel Hernandez (not listed above).
In 2016-2017 the team has seemingly gone all-in, at least to the point that their budget will allow. They made a good run at Luis Robert, but fell a little short on a player they were rumored to be willing to spend nearly $45M on (including the penalty). They’ve wound up with three of the top Cuban players that hit the market over the last year with shortstops Alfredo Rodriguez and Jose Garcia, as well as right handed pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez.
Those three alone will have cost the team, including penalties paid to Major League Baseball (I still want to know what they are doing with the $200M in penalties they’ve received over the last few years), nearly $30M. That doesn’t count any bonuses, and penalties paid for signing the other players during the period. That includes Mexican teenager Victor Ruiz, who was among several players that stood out in spring training among the extended spring group. The biggest money has gone to the older, more mature players, but the team hasn’t skimped on the 16 or 17-year-old signings, either.
The Cincinnati Reds have made a real commitment over the last two years towards building through the amateur ranks. They’ve spent tons of money on players. They have also spent money on improvements in many other areas, both in the minor leagues and Major Leagues that we don’t see every day like we would the players, but ones that should help the organization take that next step forward in the long run. Time will tell how these past few years all turns out, but we can’t look back and say they didn’t try to make it happen.