The Cincinnati Reds have reportedly come to an agreement with Cuban infielder Michel Triana (he’s listed as Michael Triana and Michel Triana Monet at some publications) for a $1.3M signing bonus. Francys Romero was the first to report this.

This deal will not be official until July 2nd. And things could always change between now and then, though it does seem unlikely. The Cincinnati Reds are currently unable to spend more than $300,000 to sign a single player on the international market. They face that penalty because of how much money they spent in the 2016 signing period and have been in the “penalty box” for the last two years. The new signing period begins on July 2nd and at that point no teams will remain in the penalty and everyone is basically on equal footing when it comes to the amount of money they can spend.

It seems that the Reds won out on their bidding over the Houston Astros, who were also a team that was attempting to sign the infielder. In the 2017-2018 season in the Cuban National Series (their professional league), Michel Triana played in eight games for Villa Clara. The then 18-year-old hit .263/.417/.474 with a double, home run, five walks, and four strikeouts. BeisbolenCuba.com has a slightly different line of .308/.455/.538 over 33 plate appearances. The sample size is next to nothing, but it’s also the only statistical information that we have to look at, too.

Michel Triana left Cuba to seek a job in Major League Baseball in mid-August of 2018. He’s a left-handed hitter who has spent time at third base, first base, and shortstop in his career in Cuba. Listed at 6′ 3″ and 216 lbs, he’s already filled out quite well. In his amateur career he has played on the international stage for Team Cuba.

The Reds have been rather active in signing older players out of Cuba over the last decade. When it comes to international free agency, going back to Aroldis Chapman, the team has handed out deals of $1M or more to six players. Five of them were from Cuba: Chapman (MLB deal), Raisel Iglesias (MLB deal), Alfredo Rodriguez, Vladimir Gutierrez, and Jose Garcia. The only seven-figure bonus handed out to a non-Cuban born player on the international market in the last decade by the organization went to outfielder Cristian Olivo in 2015.

There’s been some success here. Obviously what the Reds were able to get from Aroldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias is very easy to see. The rules, however, were very different then, and they were both older players who were either almost ready to pitch in the Major Leagues, or ready to on the day that they signed. Vladimir Gutierrez has found success in Double-A to this point in his career. He finds himself in big league camp this spring as a non-roster invitee at age 23. Jose Garcia is a Top 15 prospect in the organization. After his first season it’s the scouts that have the faith that his poor numbers in 2018 aren’t telling the story of his potential.

There’s something to be said about the Reds going in on older, Cuban prospects than younger guys from other Latin American countries. There’s less guessing involved in how the players bodies will develop. Usually there is also more ability to have seen them play in competitive games against advanced competition. This takes some of the guess-work away.

At the same time, this can also work against you. With a little bit less risk, you are paying more money for some certainty. Usually, for the same price, you would get a higher upside player that is 16. More risky and probably further away from the Majors – but for the price the team paid Alfredo Rodriguez, Jose Garcia, or Vladimir Gutierrez, they could have signed the top 16-year-old prospect in any international free agent class since the rules changed a couple of years ago.

That last sentence, though, is worth looking at beyond face value. Particularly in the international market outside of Cuba, it’s usually not the team willing to pay the most money that winds up signing the player. While technically it’s “not allowed” to come to an agreement with players in advance of the signing date, every team does it. And some of the guys are doing it a year to a year-and-a-half in advance. Developing the relationship with the player, his agent, his family – these are more important than flat out writing the biggest check.

While the Reds have opened up their checkbook a bit more in Latin America than in the past, they’ve also been quiet by comparison to some other teams. It takes a while to get “in” with some of the right trainers/buscones. And if the Reds haven’t been able to make that happen, then going with the older, easier-to-just-write-the-biggest-check-to Cuban players, it’s not a bad strategy. Of course, there’s always the chance that the Reds simply prefer the risk-factor with the older players, too.

After spending two years in the penalty box for spending in 2016, this summer Cincinnati will be out of it. It seems that they are going to be willing to spend their pool allotment. Over the last two years we’ve seen them trade it away since they weren’t able to spend it. Come July and August it will be worth really keeping an eye on.

34 Responses

    • Doug Gray

      I have not heard from anyone yet at this point with regards to a scouting report/scouting information. I saw the initial report last night after midnight, so I decided to wait until this morning to reach out to some people and not blow their phone notifications up at 1am. Hopefully someone has some information – I’ll be sure to share what I get, if I get something.

      That said, the price tag alone suggests he’s a good prospect who it would probably be tough to say “he’s not going to be a Top 30 org guy”. But, we also need to note that he can’t sign with the Reds until July 2nd, so it’s going to be quite a while before he shows up on any lists.

      • Wes

        Mlb.com says their list comes out in May. Nice to see reds being proactive. Can’t wait to see who else they are linked too

      • Doug Gray

        I thought you meant Top 30 org rankings, not top international free agent rankings.

    • $$

      For $1.3M I would hope he would be a top 30 prospect for our team. But info does seem scant on him, only found a couple cuban sites with any info at all on him on Google.

  1. Colorado Red

    A QQ Doug.
    How much will the Reds have left after signing him?
    Nice to see them sign someone who is not a glove first SS, who cannot hit his way out of a paper bag.
    The 2016 class, does not look too promising overall.

    • Oldtimer

      Garcia and Gutierrez look like very good MiLB prospects. Rodriguez is MLB quality SS in field.

      • Colorado Red

        Yes, but Rodriguez can’t hit his way out of a paper bag.
        Do not see that flying.

      • Oldtimer

        We’ll see on Rodriguez. Concepcion and Geronimo were relatively weak hitters in MiLB but turned out better in MLB.

      • Stock

        I would not put Alf Rod in the same class as Geronimo or Concepcion.
        Alf Rod’s Best season was in A+ ball where he hit .253/.294/.294 at age 23. OPS of .588

        At age 21 between the majors and minors Geronimo hit .292/.346/.424 (OPS .770)
        At age 22 in AA Geronimo went .269/.313/.333

        Concepcion at age 21 in AAA hit .310/.368/.375 (OPS .743).

        Geronimo’s age 21 season his OPS was .182 greater than Alf Rod’s best season (at age 23 to boot). Concepcion’s was only .156 greater but he was playing at a higher lever and was 2 years younger.

        And most importantly times have changed. The 70’s saw Mark Belanger (.580 career OPS in 2000 games), Mario Mendoza (.506 OPS in 686 games) and many, many others.

        Larry Bowa finished 3rd in the MVP voting in 1978 with an OPS of .689. Mark Belanger finished 21 and 26 in the MVP voting in 1973/1974 with an OBP of .300 and OPS’s of .564 and .598. This year Billy Hamilton was released with an OBP of .300 and an OPS of .626.

        This summary should show you how good Geronimo’s .770 OPS and Concepcion’s .743 OPS were at age 21.

        So the reality of it is that there is no comparison. Concepcion and Geronimo were young (21) and Alf Rod is 24 now. They both his very well for the time period in which they played and Alf Rod’s hitting is very poor for his time.

        In short 2 terrible comparisons.

      • Stock

        You crack me up Oldtimer.

        Last week you were talking about how great Tommy Helms was. His last three seasons with the Reds his OPS was

        1969: Finished 115 out of 120 qualified at .613
        1970: Finished 114 out of 114 qualified hitters at .543
        1971: Finished 108 out of 114 qualified hitters at .615

        This week you are saying Geronimo and Concepcion suck with OPS’s north of .740

        How is a .600 OPS good but a .750 OPS bad?

      • Oldtimer

        Helms was twice All-Star and GG winner those years. And ROY in 1966. Who gives a hoot about his OPS?

      • Doug Gray

        We know a lot more today about player value than people did ind the 60’s. So simply saying “All Star” and “ROY” doesn’t do much because they weren’t exactly looking at the best stats to determine who was the best back then.

      • Oldtimer

        In MiLB not MLB. Concepcion and Geronimo. Klu made both of them into MLB quality hitters.

      • Oldtimer

        But in MLB here are OPS numbers (first 3 years).

        Concepcion .641 1970. .496 1971. .541 1972.
        Geronimo (HOU) .625 1969. .536 1970. .594 1971.

        Oh. (sound of mic dropping)

      • Stock

        Pick up your mic Oldtimer. You Specifically said Concepcion and Geronimo had poor MiLB numbers. My post is factual.

        As for Helms the GG means nothing. Rafeal Palmerio won a GG one year at 1B when he was the DH all year.

        Rookie of the year is a nice award but if the rookie class is weak what does it really mean?

        Helms had a WAR of ZERO from 1969 – 1971.

        His OPS from 1969 – 1971 was .588. That was 169 out of 177 players. Ahead of fellow greats Del Maxvill, Tim Cullen, Paul Casanova and Jackie Hernandez.

        Pick up the mic because Helms was not very good and most importantly because you changed the conversation to try to make the stats fit your statements. I agree that both struggled their first couple of years in the majors. But by age 24 (Alf Rod’s current age) Geronimo had an OPS of .756 in the majors. I don’t think Alf Rod will have on OPS north of .600 this year let alone doing it in the majors. Concepcion put up an OPS of .760 at age 25 (again in the majors).

        You comparing Alf Rod to Geronimo and Concepcion is just wrong. Terrible comps. So pick that mic back up Old man because two weeks in a row you have been very wrong on players who played 50 years ago.

        And neither one was close to accurate. My stats though… Look them up and verify if you like.

    • Doug Gray

      As long as I’m understanding the rules correctly, the Reds should have $5.25M available for this upcoming signing period because they had a Comp A pick in the 2019 draft (they traded it in the Sonny Gray deal). Assuming that still means they fall into that category, then $5.25M is their allowance. I don’t believe the trading of that pick puts them into the higher bracket.

  2. MK

    Wonder who came up with the July date.Seems like a logical date for football or soccer, but January would have been better for a baseball league. With July you sign a guy, take a few weeks to condition then the season is over.

    • Doug Gray

      Well, most “July 2nd” signings are actually guys signing contracts for the following season, not the current one. When it comes to older guys, which when the rules were written, were far more rare, they will sometimes sign deals for the current season. But they also aren’t guys that have to wait to sign for age reasons, either.

    • Mac

      Most fiscal years start July 1st….so July 2nd makes some sense if you think of it that way….otherwise no idea.

  3. Norwood Nate

    I like that the Reds continue to add talent to their system. Don’t know anything about him, but the price tag would indicate there’s some positive projection there. He certainly has some size to work with. Wonder if that size will keep him at a corner spot?

  4. AirborneJayJay

    Another Cuban signee, more millions of $$$ down a rat hole.
    MLB has got to get its act together and move these guys into the regular draft or have an IFA draft. Too many millions of $$$ have been terribly wasted on these Cubans.

    • Doug Gray

      You know nothing at all about this player and you’re already convinced it’s wasted money? That’s certainly one heck of a hot take.

      • AirborneJayJay

        Chapman and Iglesias aside, if the Reds were happy with their other Cuban and IFA signings, then Graupe and Buckley would still be in their same jobs and not unceremoniously dumped to a “new” position.

    • Cguy

      I’d rather the Reds spend lavishly on signing bonuses for international prospects than to sign long term FA contracts. Even to the point of seeing the Reds trade for more international signing slot money this year. After all the off-season moves the Reds have made this winter, being aggressive in this international prospect market is encouraging. Not getting on a “one horse bandwagon”. Sweet.

    • Stock

      I think the money spent on Chapman was money well spent. The money spent on Iglesias was money well spent. It is far too early to have an opinion on Garcia. It is an important year for Gutierrez.

      Far too early to tell on Triana. I think most of the big time 16 year olds have been locked in so the Reds know how much surplus cash they have. They would not have done this if it meant they could not sign someone else. For that reason it is money well spent.

      Here’s to hoping they have a Jeter Downs replacement here.

      • Justin

        I didn’t think of it that way but you’re right on. They likely had this lined up before trading downs, or at least had it most of the way. Stuff like that is why it’s so hard to have a fully formed opinion on the moves of the club. So much is going on that we can’t know about.

      • Muddycleats

        U make some Good pts. I still work 4 a living so don’t have time 2 chase stat comparisons, but IMO, $$$would have been better spent keeping Hamilton or signing someone like Maybin or A. Escobar as backup SS @ baserunner

      • Stock

        I agree muddy cleats. The Reds still have $10 million to spend and would be in a better position right now if Hamilton were still on the roster. He would be an ideal 4th/5th OF.

        I still see the Cards winning the Division easily. The Reds and Cubs should fight it out for 2nd. They needed Realmuto or Kluber to contend IMO

      • MK

        Siri can do what Hamilton can do right now and be several million dollars cheaper. But, with a 4 man bench the team can not afford to carry either of them

    • Wes

      Abjj is right in his point. Although this is just 1 million. WE ALL were begging reds to waste 50 million on Luis Robert. Every last one of us who comment here. Never read a comment here against him. 18 months later and he’s still a fringe top 50 prospect.

      Let’s say reds won on Robert. How much of that 40-50 million would have not have been there to bulk team this off season ?? How much more would white Sox have to throw at machado right now if they didn’t sign Robert ??

      • Doug Gray

        I’d venture to say that it wouldn’t have effected this offseason one bit.

      • Wes

        Cause reds just have 50 mil laying around ? Lol. This must be yankeesminorleagues.com

    • MK

      When you think of the bonus money spent in the Amateur Drafts each year and the few from each draft that make it, I am sure there is as much or more wasted on U.S boys Any signing is a risk.