Cubs sign Cuban defector Gerardo Concepcion for five years, $6M
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com March 11, 2012 8:08PM
The Cubs are excited about Cuban players on par with Yoenis Cespedes, who chose the Athletics. | Marcio Jose Sanchez~AP
Updated: April 13, 2012 10:32AM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Cuban outfield prospect Jorge Soler is still a to-be-continued for the Cubs.
But Gerardo Concepcion? Throw the Cubbie blue on him.
While the Cubs were believed to have won the sweepstakes to land the 20-year-old Cuban defector last month, the team announced Sunday before its Cactus League game with the Los Angeles Dodgers that Concepcion, a left-handed pitcher and the Cuban National Series rookie of the year, had been officially signed to a five-year deal worth $6 million, including a $3 million signing bonus.
General manager Jed Hoyer couldn’t help but smile when talking about the deal.
‘‘One of our focuses has been on continuing to bring in pitching depth, and he’s a 20-year-old left-hander, really good feel for pitching, three-pitch mix, has had success at a really young age in Cuba, and he’s a guy we’re excited to bring over here and work with,’’ Hoyer said.
They wasted no time putting him on the 40-man roster and assigning him to the minor-league camp. The hope is Concepcion will be on the fast track, especially with the résumé he put together in Cuba last season: a 10-3 record with a 3.36 ERA in 21 games (16 starts) for the Industriales.
‘‘We felt very comfortable with the financial commitment with how much of the work we’ve done,’’ Hoyer said of the process to land him.
And he’s not the only Cuban the Cubs want to add.
Soler, 19, would be the big get for the North Siders, and there are conflicting reports as to their status in landing him. Some have it as a done deal, but Hoyer said Soler hasn’t been ruled a free agent yet.
Also rumored to be in on the hunt for Soler are the White Sox, the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Baltimore Orioles, and don’t rule out a mystery team swooping in, just as the Oakland Athletics did last month in the derby for Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who signed a four-year, $36 million deal.
There’s no question the Cubs are front-runners, however, and they believe Soler is just as talented as Cespedes. He’s also much younger than Cespedes, who’s 26.
Looming in the background is the new collective-bargaining agreement governing spending restrictions for international amateur players. In July, the Wild West mentality teams have had while searching the globe for talent will be capped. Hoyer said that would obviously change the way business is done, but it wasn’t a factor in getting Concepcion.
The immediate plan is to stay away from putting big expectations on Concepcion that pressure him to get to Wrigley Field quickly.
‘‘With any Cuban guy, there is an assimilation process,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘It’s going to take some time, both socially and baseball-wise, so we don’t want to put undo expectations on a guy that does need to assimilate to our culture.’’
A fellow countryman could help with the process. To be continued.