The 2019 international signing period is still two months away from kicking off. Every year it begins on July 2nd for players that are at least 16-years-old. Players who turn 16 during the minor league season are also eligible to sign during that period.

For the last two years the Cincinnati Reds have been in the penalty box, so to speak. The rules changes on the international market after the 2016 signing period. In the last year under the previous rules teams were allowed to spend however much money they wanted to. But to do so they had to face penalties. The Reds decided it was worth it to go well above their limits, spending nearly triple their allowed amount. That meant they would pay nearly 6-times in total, after financial penalties, than their allotment was for during the period.

That year the team signed three Cuban players for multi-million dollar bonuses. Shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez got the largest deal of the bunch, followed up shortstop Jose Garcia and pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez. That year the Reds also made a run at Luis Robert. There were rumors that they were willing to go upwards into the low $20M range. That would have also meant another $20M in penalties. Ultimately he wound up signing with the White Sox for $26M.

With their willingness to spend, and spend big, they were limited to no signings of international players for the next two signing periods that cost more than $300,000. Those penalties are now over and the game has changed. With the Reds unrestricted by penalties, they now enter a market where the teams are generally even in what they can and can’t spend. No longer are there penalties for going over – you simply can’t spend more than you are allotted. You can, however, trade for additional “pool space”, up to 75% of your original allotment.

In the current period there are three different allotments: $4,983,500, $5,504,500, or $6,025,400. The Cincinnati Reds will fall in the middle tier and have the ability to spend up to $5,504,500 on players. Any player signed for $10,000 or less does not count against that number.

MLB Pipeline updated their Top 30 2019 International Signing Period Prospects List, and lists who the favorite is to sign each player. The Cincinnati Reds are not listed as the favorite for any of the players in the Top 30. Two of the players in the top 30 are not listed as being the “favorite” to sign with any team.

There’s only been one bigger name that the Reds have been linked to at this point, Michel Triana. The Cuban infielder has reportedly agreed to sign with Cincinnati for $1.3M. He’s reportedly just outside of the Top 30 on the MLB Pipeline list.

The information has been a bit limited in the public space on Triana. But as I shared with those who support the site via Patreon back in spring training, I was able to speak with several scouts in Arizona who had seen him. Speaking of that – are you taking advantage of the additional perks you could be getting for as low as $1 a month (or $1M a month, Jeff Bezos, who I know is reading this) for supporting the site at Patreon.com/RedsMinorLeagues?

There was some good, and some not-as-good stuff in the reports that I heard on the 18-year-old Cuban infielder. Let’s jump into that a little bit.

Michel Triana Scouting Report

The first scout that I spoke with about Michel Triana noted that his team wasn’t too interested in him. But that he looked more impressive in his workout than he was expecting based on previous information. The power was there, both now and even more in the future. His take was that while he’s possibly going to see time at third base early, he’s a future first baseman. There was also some concerns about how his body could potentially get in the future if he didn’t take care of it.

Reports over the next few days were a little better. One scout noted that there’s potential there for 30+ home run power down the line if things go right for him. And that he could also be a guy who hits for a good average. No one seemed to believe that he would wind up at third base long term, but there was one person who felt that the corner outfield could be a possibility – but he also noted first base was an option.

The Reds plan

It seems that they have been, and are willing to spend money in this class. There was a rumor that they were willing to pay $3M to Alex Vargas to wait and sign until July. He was eligible to sign last signing period, though, and ultimately signed with the Yankees for $2.5M. The previous two classes, restricted by spending limitations, have led to smaller signing classes. Couple that with the team eliminating a team in the Dominican Summer League and thus having fewer spots to play signees, it’ll be interesting to see just how many players the team signs.

There’s a new head of international scouting this year. Trey Hendricks took over as the Director of International Scouting for the Reds on Halloween of 2018. Previously that job had been held by Tony Arias. He took over that job in November of 2014 and is now the scouting supervisor in South Florida for the organization. The move was one of many throughout the organization as they added to, and changed, and replaced the roles of plenty throughout the scouting and coaching departments.

There’s a lot of reasons that the Reds have struggled to perform well in developing international talent. Some of it is a lack of money spent. Some of it has been bad luck. But some of it has probably been related to scouting, too. And of course, some of it is probably related to the fact that if you aren’t spending the money, you aren’t always going to get to see players. The international market, while it has changed some over the last decade, is still a strange landscape to navigate.

It will be a long time until we can look back at the 2019 signing period and figure out if it worked out for just about any team. But this is the start of a new period of time to look back on down the road. The rules make things a lot more “fair” for every team. The days of the New York Yankees signing a third of the top 30 prospects in a single class are over. With every team being restricted, as much as I hate that it is restricted spending, to roughly the same amount of money, there’s a lot more skill involved in scouting and development than simply being able to throw money around than there used to be. That, along with a new international scouting director makes this the starting point of how to judge the organization down the line.

17 Responses

  1. Wes

    Thank God reds didn’t spend 50/60 million on Luis Robert in that class! The sure fire can’t miss prospect just graduated A ball last week. Reds doing much better things w money not spent.

    • Doug Gray

      He’s hitting .390/.462/.762 this season…. He’s younger than Jonathan India. And now playing at a level higher.

      • AirborneJayJay

        School the fool Doug!
        Luis Robert was pricey. But he is one heck of an OF and bat.

      • Wes

        The same team that need 3 years to pay for one season of that closer they signed and never played for em ? 3 years to pay the guy like 6-8 million. Same team to still pay Griffey Jr 10 years after he plays on the team. Take 50 million out of their funds- do they still have puig/wood/gray/Roark?? Highly unlikely. “Pricey” is code for idk how much 50 million dollars impacts the team.

        Robert broke into majors as 25th best prospect. He’s 35th when season started bc his stock is down due to him not meeting expectations.

        Diamond in rough- great find; 2nd most expensive prospect in mlb history going to a small market team and then not meeting expectations- count yourself lucky !

      • Doug Gray

        Not meeting expectations…..

        He is literally 21 years old.

      • Wes

        India signed for 5.3 million; Robert 52 million. I’ll take my chances w 10 India’s over 1 Robert all day and I’m not even that high on India.

        One more time- 52 million. He would have to be producing in majors at 21 to be worth that.

      • Doug Gray

        No, he wouldn’t have to be. And the fact that India signed for $5.3M tells you just how much he and other draft picks, and now international players, are getting absolutely screwed. Their true market value is much, much higher – but the owners, and the players association worked against them to take away their market.

      • Wes

        Right! Robert’s contract was so bad for what mlb wanted moving forward they changed the rules to keep it from ever happening again. Thank God reds didn’t spend 60 million to sign the guy!

        Acuna/tatis/Robles/Soto are all teenagers playing Major League Baseball. You can take their bonuses and every bonus every teenage major leaguer ever got in mlb history and it’s still less than what Robert got.

        If u r upset the reds missed on him- you have no clue how much 52 million dollars impacts a team like reds.

      • Bill

        First, I wish the Reds had ten more “busts” like Luis Robert, but Robert’s $25M+ signing does not represent his true value (or others) on the open market. Roberts took advantage of the former IFA system to time his arrival on the market when there was no competition from other amateur players. Had he been available at the start of the IFA signing season or during the Rule 4 draft, he would have faced competition for amateur signing dollars. The latest CBA closed a loophole that allowed a few very talented amateur players to make their services available without having to compete with other amateurs.

      • Doug Gray

        It absolutely represents his true value.

      • Bill

        Doug, unfortunately all it represents is his value in a very specific context. He signed in late May 2017. Several teams were restricted from signing him limiting demand. Of those eligible to sign him, some had allocated much of their player payroll budget to their major league roster, others that viewed themselves as non-competitive were willing to allocate their resources towards amateur players. Roberts was the only player of significance in play (limited supply). In short, there were both limited potential buyers (demand) and only one player available (extremely limited supply). Demand far exceeded supply which worked in Roberts favor. Only in that context is correct to say he was worth the ~$26M he was signed for or the $50M+ the White Sox paid including penalties. Basic supply/demand principles tell us he would have received less if competing with a larger pool amateur player that had typical talent available.

        You are correct that the CBA limits the amount teams can spend on amateur talent acquisition. In economic terms it’s essentially a price ceiling on amateur talent, but it’s important to remember that CBA essentially allocates the same amount of dollars for IFAs that teams to were spending when unconstrained. In other words, the ceiling agreed to approximates established market by supply and demand and thus should have little effect on suppressing team spending on IFAs. That’s why the players agreed to it.

    • Ty

      Yeah he only graduated high A ball with a measly 1.432 OPS as a 21 year old. He had 34 hits, 16 of those being of the extra base variety.

    • Doug Gray

      Getting ready for when rookie ball starts. I am not sure if he’s in the Dominican or if he’s in Goodyear right now, though.

  2. The Duke

    If I were the Reds owner, I would subscribe to the strategy of giving one of the top guys $4-$5 million every year and then fill out the class with a bunch of $25k signings. With as little as the Reds have gotten from the international talent pool (Cueto was one of those $25k guys, so he doesn’t count) i’d rather gamble with the top of the class guys who seem to be turning into impact players with much more regularity than the guys further down the list.

  3. MK

    Has anything come from Ray Chang who was hired to be an Asian Scouting Supervisor, to move the Reds into that talent area? I do not see him listed in the Media Guide in the Scouts section.