After several years of not being able to sign any of the top tier players in the July 2nd international signing period as they paid penalties for going over their allotment in 2016 to sign a class that included Jose Garcia, Vladimir Gutierrez, and Alfredo Rodriguez the Cincinnati Reds are back to spending. This past year the Reds have been let out of the penalty box and have spent over $4.5M on the current signing class. Two of those signings have been for 7-figures, with Braylin Minier getting a bonus of $1.8M, while Cuban Michel Triana reportedly got $1.3M. The current signing period runs through mid-June of 2020, though any remaining signs will be of more lower-to-mid tier guys if they come at all. Everyone that is eligible to sign this period is already out there, unless there’s a pop up Cuban player who gain eligibility.
But as gross as the whole situation is, teams are already working on the signing classes of 2020 and 2021. Ben Badler at Baseball America had an article today that looked at six players for the 2020 class that are expected to sign in the $1.5-2M range next year. Among that group is outfielder Malvin Valdez from the Dominican Republic. He notes that Valdez is expected to sign with the Cincinnati Reds.
2020 OF Malvin Valdez is tooled up.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) September 9, 2019
The quick scouting report on Malvin Valdez is that he’s a very good athlete with plenty of bat speed, a very strong arm, and above-average speed. He was listed at 6′ 1″ and 170 lbs in early January when he took part in a showcase. You can see some of that here.
There’s nothing official on signing Valdez, of course, but it’s interesting to see how the Reds have operated since exiting the penalty box. From 2009 until this past July, they had signed just one non-Cuban born international free agent to a signing bonus that was a 7-figure deal. They did spend plenty of money signing Cuban born players in that span, though. Some of that came from the Major League payroll (Aroldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias).
There are certainly players who didn’t get 7-figure bonuses that have turned into very good players. But it certainly seems like the guys that turn into stars are from the group that did by-and-large. The Reds haven’t been players in that area much for the last decade plus. As we’ve seen, they’ve also lacked developing non-Cuban born players from their farm system, too. When Juan Francisco is arguably your best international signing to Major Leaguer in the last 20 years from the non-Cuban category, it speaks volumes. Investing, continuously, is required.
For the longest time the Reds would make a splash every 5 years or so in this market and hope to develop from mid-tier guys. Even their splashes weren’t at the top of the market. That’s not to say they didn’t try. There’s a lot more than just pure money offers that go into the market. But excuses or not, they weren’t in that market. In 2015 they signed a $600,000 and a $1,000,000 player. In 2016 is was the year they spent nearly $30M after penalties when they inked the three Cuban players mentioned earlier in the article. After the penalty box sit-out, they’ve signed two more guys to 7-figure deals. It seems they’ve attempted to play with the big boys a little bit more. And while I don’t like capping the market, having everyone on a pretty even playing field in what they’re allowed to spend certainly helps the Reds out today.