Cubs have ‘whole ’nother draft’ with international free agents
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com July 4, 2013 6:08PM
Updated: July 4, 2013 6:31PM
OAKLAND, Calif. — Manager Dale Sveum hasn’t seen any video of the Dominican and Venezuelan teenagers the Cubs signed this week to multimillion-dollar deals, but the significance of the franchise’s most aggressive summer in international free agency isn’t lost on him.
“It’s like a whole ’nother draft, to be able to pick the best international players and get the first and third pick,” Sveum said. “Supposedly, there’s some really, really special talent out there right now.”
The Cubs are close to making official the $2.8 million signing of 16-year-old Eloy Jimenez, considered the top Latin player available during the signing period, which began Tuesday. The Cubs also have a $1.7 million deal with Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres, considered one of the top three available.
In addition, they signed Dominican right-hander Jefferson Mejia for $850,000 and Colombian right-hander Erling Moreno for $800,000.
Similar to new spending rules that apply to the June draft, Major League Baseball now caps spending for teams on international free agents in July. Those that overspend their allotment are penalized with stiff taxes on the excess, applied the following signing season.
Already allotted the second-most spending space, based on their 101-loss season a year ago, the Cubs traded for more signing “slots” (and assigned bonus allotment) Tuesday to wind up with more room than anyone else.
According to plan, they’ll overspend their limit and pay the price, even if it means no big-money signings next year.
“We really like some of the impact talent in this year’s international class,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said this week. “We feel there’s both depth and premium guys.”
It’s a lot of money to spend on 16-year-olds, no matter what their skills look like.
But if even one from this class becomes an impact player, the Cubs would figure to get a shot of high talent four to six years from now, when they already plan to be competitive again.
In the June draft, the Cubs have had the Nos. 9, 6 and 2 overall picks the last three drafts, and they could wind up with a top-five pick next June.
The international class this year theoretically backfills the top talent in the pipeline as those players (and their classes) rise from Class A ball the next few years.
“To be able to spend the money and get those [coveted international] guys, it’s kind of like what we just went through in the draft with a little different type thing,” Sveum said. “The difference is you can take 16-year-old kids.”