Since the Cincinnati Reds got out of the penalty period in 2019 (they went over their allotted spending amount in 2016 – the final year before the rules changed that made it impossible to spend over your allotment as long as you were willing to face the penalties) they have spent their money and picked up 7-figure players. Signing players to 7-figure deals was something that the team pretty much avoided for non-Cuban players prior to 2019. They had signed just three such players in nearly two decades, but since then there’s been four 7-figure signings for the organization. The 2023 signing period will begin on Sunday. Cincinnati will have a spending pool of $6,366,900
Last year saw them sign Ricardo Cabrera (the organization’s 12th rated prospect) to the largest bonus they’ve handed out to a non-Cuban signee. This year they are once again expected to land one of the top players in the signing class. Catcher Alfredo Duno is currently rated as the 4th best prospect in the class by MLB Pipeline. There’s an argument, just like there was for Cabrera, that he’s the top player in the class. He’s a 5-tool catcher with a chance to have above-average defense and plus power.
Among MLB Pipeline’s Top 50 international prospects, Alfredo Duno is the only one that the Reds are expected to sign. If that’s going to be the case then getting a guy who may be at the top of the list is certainly the way to go about it.
But it’s not always the top guys that turn into the big prospects – though there is absolutely some correlation between getting the bigger bonuses and turning into high-level players down the line. Back in 2018, when the Reds were still in the penalty phase and could not spend more than $300,000 to sign any single prospect, they got some kid named Elly De La Cruz to sign for $65,000. That year in Baseball America’s write up for the Reds report from the signing period only two players were mentioned: Ilvin Fernandez and Jeferson Geraldo. Geraldo hit .158 in 2019 and was released in 2020. Fernandez has struggled since completing his first season back in 2019, posting a .595 OPS in 2021 and then a .495 OPS in 2022 and has just two career home runs in 113 career games played.
That, of course, is a bit of a different situation since the penalties kept the Reds from going after anyone that was considered even a mid-tier signing at that point, but there’s a long list of mid-six-figure signings that struggled to get beyond complex and or rookie ball. There’s even a case where one player who had the largest bonus handed out for a several year stretch never even played in a single game for the organization because he couldn’t get/remain healthy.
I’ll have reports on the signings next week. In the past few years the Reds have had signings roll out over a few day period of time with things being official, so there may be reports coming out over several days.