The international signing period can be a bit strange in how it works. Most of the big signings happen between July 2nd and the end of August – just a two-month period of time. The reason that happens is because the “new” signing period doesn’t begin until July 2nd, and players are eligible to sign if they are 16 before the end of the minor league season. Once the minor league season is over, the “new class” of players are all available, and guys aren’t waiting around to sign as they’ve generally been in agreements to sign for at least a year prior to actually putting ink to paper. The exception to that rule, however, is Cuban players. They will defect from the country at any time and then wait to be approved to sign by Major League Baseball.

Currently the 2019 signing period is still going on. It will come to an end on June 15th. For the two weeks and change between then and July 2nd, there is a freeze on international signings. Most teams have spent most of their bonus pools already, though. Thursday saw multiple reports on a big Cuban prospect, outfielder Pedro Leon, agreeing to a deal worth about $4,000,000 with the Houston Astros. It was reported at both Baseball America (Ben Badler) and ESPN (Kiley McDaniel and Jeff Passan). It appears that unless something changes, he will be waiting until the 2020 signing period begins this upcoming July to sign, as that’s when the Astros will be able to write him that big of a check.

Within the article written by Badler at Baseball America, though, he also takes a look at some other 7-figure bonus players in the upcoming class. Two of them are linked with the Cincinnati Reds. One of them, outfielder Malvin Valdez, we first heard about back in September. The other player listed in outfielder Ariel Almonte, a tall left-handed hitter out of the Dominican Republic.

Both players are expected to sign bonuses for 7-figures. In the current class there have been 30 players total that have signed for bonuses that large, and two of them were signed by the Reds. The team picked up Cuban infielder Michel Triana for $1,300,000, as well as Dominican shortstop Braylin Minier for $1,800,000. It seems that once again that Cincinnati is going to put down big money on a few players.

That is a rather stark difference from what the team has historically done. The Reds went big in 2008, signing both Yorman Rodriguez and Juan Duran to 7-figure bonuses. The next time that Cincinnati signed a minor league contract of an international player for 7-figures was in 2015 when they signed outfielder Cristian Olivo for $1,000,000. The following year was the last time in which teams could spend freely – there were penalties to be paid for going over what Major League Baseball “allowed”, but if you were willing to face those penalties, you could do so. And plenty of teams did so – including the Reds. That year they went big and spent, with penalties, nearly $30,000,000 to sign three Cuban players. They’ve had mixed results from the class that included pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez and shortstops Alfredo Rodriguez and Jose Garcia – Garcia’s currently the best prospect of the group, ranking as the organizations 4th best prospect.

Due to the penalties faced, in the 2017 and 2018 signing periods the Reds were only able to spend up to $300,000 on an individual player. But once that period cleared, the team went back to spending big. The organization hasn’t had much luck in getting international players to the big leagues, much less getting ones there who have found success – except the ones they signed to big league deals (Aroldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias).

Over the last two decades they’ve got a great success story with Johnny Cueto, who signed in 2004 for $35,000. He was great for the Reds in his time with the organization – finishing in the top four of the Cy Young voting twice. He’s really the only international player the Reds signed, and kept around, who has really done a whole lot.

Two players that the Reds didn’t keep around, though have had some success elsewhere. The biggest one is Didi Gregorius who signed with Cincinnati in August of 2007. He’s accumulated 16.6 WAR in his career to this point. He briefly played in Cincinnati in 2012, getting into eight games in September before being traded away that offseason.

The other guy on the list left as a minor league free agent after the 2012 season. Miguel Rojas signed with the Reds in November of 2005 and spent seven seasons in the organization, never reaching the big leagues. He didn’t get there in 2013 with the Dodgers after signing with them, either. But the next season they needed someone to fill in around the infield for them, and he would get called up at 25-years-old and play in 85 games in 2014. Miami then traded for him, and he spent the next three seasons as a part-time player for the Marlins. In both 2018 and 2019 he played most days, getting over 525 plate appearances. Not much of a hitter – he’s got a career .662 OPS – he’s a strong defender at shortstop and thanks to the glove he’s racked up 9.0 WAR in his career so far.

After that, unless I’m drawing a blank on someone, you are getting into the debate of Aristides Aquino’s two whole months in the Major Leagues or Juan Francisco’s few years of power and low on-base skills as a part time player. Two decades have turned out one starting pitcher, one every day player (Gregorius), one solid role player (Rojas), and one incredible month so far from Aristides Aquino.

Now, there’s certainly something to be said about needing time to see how the more recent classes develop. Aquino, for example, was 24-years-old when he was called up this year, and he signed all of the way back in 2011. But even today when you look at the farm system’s international prospects, you’ve got Jose Garcia in the Top 5, and then a bunch of question marks.

There are plenty of Major Leaguers who weren’t the big bonus signings. But a lot of Major Leaguers were those guys. And for nearly all of the last two or three decades, the Cincinnati Reds didn’t play in the market like other teams did when it came to spending money. That has changed in the last five years. The results have been mixed thus far, but it appears that they’re at least trying to go after more top end talent at the start rather than hoping to find guys that one day have the potential to have some tools that they can develop.

48 Responses

  1. Norwood Nate

    Were Wandy Peralta and Ronald Torrey’s IFA? I believe they were. They’re about the only other guys I could think of that had more than a cup of coffee in the bigs.
    Torrey’s has been pretty decent as a utility guy.

    • Doug Gray

      They were. I thought about mentioning Peralta, then noticed he actually had negative WAR for his career and decided to just keep him off. Torreyes has 1.2 career WAR in his parts of five seasons. So he’s basically sitting there right behind Aquino’s 1.3 career WAR.

    • Doug Gray

      Both will be playing this year. Assignments haven’t been made, but I’d be shocked if Minier were anywhere other than on the DSL Reds roster. Triana, I expect, will be in the US somewhere.

    • Doug Gray

      As far as I can tell he hasn’t defected.

      All of the talk about him becoming eligible to sign was before the new government changed the agreement that was put in place by the previous administration that would have allowed Cuban players to be signed with some of the signing bonus money going to the Cuban teams.

  2. James Phillips

    I hope the Reds have enough MLB success that Williams and his team stay around for a while. The organization just seems to have made a huge leap a to how they acquire and develop players

    • Oldtimer

      The former GM won one WS and nine (I think) NL Central titles. He built the Oakland A’s MiLB systems that delivered their powerhouse Bash Brothers teams of 1988-89-90. He is rated one of top GM ever.

      Other Reds GM successes include Howsam and DeWitt among others.

      Williams has big shoes to fill.

      • James Phillips

        But the game has changed. By all accounts the Reds are trying to overcome an antiquated mindset about analytics, an antiquated pitcher development system, an antiquated international signing system, etc.

        The team needs to modernize, and it sure looks like they are finally doing that under Williams.

      • Oldtimer

        Nope. Bob Howsam was all over analytics (OBP primarily) when he acquired Joe Morgan in 1971.

        Walt Jocketty is one of the all time best GM. Dusty Baker is one of the best managers ever. Neither are with the Reds now.

      • MK

        Those previous GMs worked under a different set of rules than Williams. DeWitt had the added advantage of also being the owner.

      • Oldtimer

        All the names I mentioned, ESPECIALLY Howsam, are superior to Williams. Now and in the future.

        Howsam STILL signed the Reds best FA ever (Dave Parker) back in 1983.

      • Doug Gray

        You can be a great, and still not be good today. Willie Mays may be the greatest player to ever live. But he would be terrible if he played today.

      • James Phillips

        If the measuring stick is 60’s and 70’s era GMs and Dave Parker, that just shows are far back the Reds were. Walt was good, but the Cards let him go because he didn’t keep up with the changes in the game and his tenure in Cincy showed that to be true.

        I’ll admit Williams hasn’t done anything with the MLB team yet, and if he doesn’t see success there, he’ll be gone. I just hope he does see success because I think he’s making a lot of changes to the team that are putting them at least on par with the rest of MLB.

      • Norwood Nate

        Jocketty’s mistakes are the primary reason the rebuild has taken so long and been so miserable. He torpedoed the rebuild by making bad trades and with poor timing on trades. I was ecstatic to see him go. Things are moving in the right direction since Williams took over.

      • DaveCT

        Agree, Nate. I never agreed with the stated intent of taking major league ready players (who may have had lower upside) than best players available.

    • Curt

      Success or not, Williams isn’t going anywhere unless there’s a change in ownership or his family votes against him. Dick Williams’ father, Joe, and an uncle, Thomas, are minority shareholders in Castellini’s ownership group. Joe Williams is the club’s incumbent board chairman and Tom is vice-chairman and treasurer.

      If the losing continues then Krall will take the blame and get the axe. A new “GM” will be hired and business will carry on.
      If the team becomes a winner, Williams will get most of the public credit, as he is clearly calling the shots as “President of Baseball Operations” and Nick Krall will get a trophy, high fives and perhaps a substantial raise.

      Since taking over as PofBO in Dec. 2016, Williams and The Reds have had three straight losing seasons. Prior to that, as VP and then GM, three more losing seasons. The last time the Reds had a winning record Williams was running the Reds accounting department.

      Krall has no prior experience as a GM in professional baseball. His resume consists of several executive assistant positions prior to his promotion to GM.

    • Stock

      If Willie Mays were 25 he would be a great player today. The game has changed but Mays was very talented and he would incorporate the new technology into his game without missing a beat. He would lift weights, change his diet and whatever else necessary to let his God given skills give him an edge.

    • Stock

      Oldtimer makes a great point here. Just because Howsam did not use the cutting edge analytics that are used today does not mean he was not ahead of the curve. He traded Lee May and Tommy Helms for Joe Morgan, Jack Billingham, Dennis Menke, Ed Armbrister and Cesar Geronimo to improve the defense up the middle and at 3B as well as understanding Morgan’s OBP made him extremely valuable.

      Sparky received the nickname Captain Hook in part because Howsam traded for Pedro Borbon, Clay Carroll and Clay Kirby. Again, by understanding the importance of the bullpen the Reds pitching suddenly became pretty good in the 70’s.

      I think it is unfair to assume Howsam would not have incorporated all the data available now to become a great GM today. He had insights others did not have in the 70’s. Good posts Oldtimer

      • Papi

        Norwood, and others-

        What trade(s) do you blame on Walt- I mean at the time of the trade, which were bad trades. I’m honestly not sure who was responsible for some trades during the transition time.

        I think it was time for Walt to go, but I have a different view as others- as I think he did a great job for the organization. I have major gripes (like not claiming Byrd and essentially leaving ludwigs position open for 161 games); but he got us results and a team we hadn’t seen since 1999.

        Really, i am curious about the specific problems everyone seems to have with Walt- and please don’t say “he couldn’t use a cell phone and was on vacation instead of knocking on trade doors”- I just don’t buy that Walt would forgo his duties as people tend to suggest often. He built multiple winning teams- and I am legitimately curious about specific gripes; beyond the two outfield ones I noted earlier

      • Papi

        Doug, I am sure you have discussed this many times- but what is your overall opinion of Walt? I liked him because the mlb team he put together, but when also considering how he managed minor leagues and minor league signings, I am not sure about.

        I would imagine, having a successful farm system and draft is based upon who the GM puts in place to scout etc. (I.e. Buckley- who again had some success but was time to go), so curious about your overall opinion of Walt Doug.

      • MK

        Not sure Howsam didn’t use cutting edge analytics for his time. The reason for the Morgan trade was because with astro turf fields he explained the game was changing from power to speed and defense, I remember he also sponsored several studies on many before unstudied issues. I remember an interview he gave where the underside color of the bill of the cap was studied for optimal player performance. They determined gray, rather than the normal green would be best. This doesn’t seem that sophisticated today with the use of sabrmetrics but it was cutting edge for the day.

  3. Linkster

    Wow, Cueto all the way back in 2004. That was a very long time in between success stories.

    • Oldtimer

      Aroldis Chapman was pretty successful. He was signed after Cueto.

      • Doug Gray

        Yes, but that’s a very different kind of signing. Cueto signed as an amateur with no professional experience at 16.

        Chapman signed a Major League deal as a 21-year-old with years of pro experience under his belt.

      • Oldtimer

        Regardless Chapman was a Cuban FA signing and very successful. More so than Cueto to be sure.

  4. Linkster

    Doug – Have you done a comparison between International signings and high school/college signings? It would be nice to see where the Reds have the greatest success and how much money was spent for each over the past 10 or 20 years.

    • Doug Gray

      I haven’t. Mostly because it’s a bit unfair to the international guys, who are signing at 16. College guys are signing at 20-23. You’d need to be comparing the 2009 or 2010 international signings to like the 2015 or 2016 college draft class to wind up with both groups being the same age today.

    • Papi

      True, I also failed to consider we just signed our first Japanese player. I guess that fault could be placed on Walt back to Quinn (I think that’s the time Ichiro came over at least)

      • Papi

        Meant for below comment, first few times commentinging- needed to kill time as wvu shit the bed in Norman.

  5. Big Ed

    I have long contended that the Reds’ No. 1 and overwhelming organizational weakness is that they have not signed and developed a truly good Latin American hitter since Tony Perez in the mid-1960s. That is almost impossible to do, but they’ve done it.

    (You could argue for Edwin Encarnacion, but they gave up on him before he became really good, plus EE was actually drafted out of Puerto Rico by the Rangers. Ditto Didi Gregorius, who was traded in favor of Zach Cozart.)

    Until they get over this hump, it is going to be hard to be a consistent contender. I do think that they have improved recently. Aquino and Jose Garcia are possibilities.

    • DaveCT

      I would say it’s quite a valid argument that Didi was signed and developed by the Reds, as he reached the ML’s with them, albeit a cup of coffee. EE doesn’t count at all as you point out along with the lack of hitters in this group.

      My issue is when watching teams like the Padres or Yankees buying up large swaths of the market on high quality years, as well as the many undercurrents around agents pushing Latino kids to certain teams. teams with the willingness to spend. which returns us to Doug’s article.

    • Papi

      EE was given plenty of opportunities- with mixed results. He was traded for a necessary addition, that helped us to the division title. It was impossible for the Reds to DH or play him at 1st- and he certainly did flourish when he focused solely on hitting.

      I do miss the EE days at third- certainly plenty of exciting throws to first base- or into the third row. It was amusing at times, but I completely understand that trade based upon the team at that time. I was happy to watch him flourish, but remember at that time- we had an MVP at first and no DH spot.

      As for DD, we developed him, and I love him as a player. Just like EE he was used in a solid trade. A 400 OBP in center field was essential for us winning the division.

      Overall, I would say EE and DD were developed well, and then traded in successful trades (which is just the business side of the game- and I think we received value back for the money and effort we put into successfully developing them both)

    • Papi

      Or briefly- when considering success and development of Latin players recently, you must consider how we signed and devolved EE and DD and then turned them into equally (or I would argue more) value. Would be nice if all the successful signings stayed like Cueto, but the fact they helped in another manner shouldn’t be ignored (I.e. acquiring more fitting players for our team at the time).

      • DaveCT

        This response can be summed up simply as curb appeal, meaning just a glance, so I know it’s a lightweight answer. But when Baseball America comes out with its top 30 guys for each organization, check out the international free agent top prospects of other clubs, then compare. We’re way short. There are lots and lots and lots of factors as to why, but just for a glance, it’s pretty impressive what others have done recently. These subjects reflect not only the massive changes in the game and the way it’s run, but also some “what have you done for me lately.”

  6. CP

    What kind of impact can we expect these two guys from last year and these two we are hoping to sign this year having on our minor league top 30? Are they top ten kind of guys right away or are they more like high upside but low floor kind of guys right now?

    • Doug Gray

      The guys signed last summer are both in my Top 25, but outside my Top 15. Triana is older, signing out of Cuba, and I’m guessing we see him in the US this year – but where, will be the bigger question. I’d guess rookie ball somewhere, but Dayton may not be completely out of the picture depending on how he performs in the spring. Minier, I’d be absolutely shocked if he didn’t start in the Dominican Summer League.

      The rule with every 16-year-old old is that they have a low floor. That’s Minier. It’s just the nature of being a 16-year-old, you are completely under developed. Triana has a higher floor because he’s played internationally, and professionally in Cuba – he is more developed. But he also has never faced a single pitcher in the minors during a game that counts. Floor is still low, because you simply don’t really know how he’ll handle pitching – you are guessing based on things you’ve seen him do in other areas, and the reports there seem to be promising – but I’ve seen far too many reports about guys that had a good idea of the strikezone before they became pros go out and have big time issues with the strikezone.

      High upsides, both Triana and Minier, but low floors, too.

      • Papi

        I assume this is what you meant- but unless it is one of the sure fire international talents, you look at potential/high- end projection. This is where scouts are most important. In my opinion, sign the young players with good eye/contact skills- other skills (other than speed which isn’t all that important) can be learned or developed (I.e. weight lifting and nutrition for power and excessive repetition for defense- 10,000 hour rule).

        This is based solely upon my observation- but a guy that can’t make contact, likely never will. But a guy that lacks power or the knowledge of where to throw the ball from right field in different situations can be developed. Siri would be one example of the former, I am hopeful Senzel is an example of the latter and learns centerfield while continuing to add power- and I have never doubted his eye/hit skill

  7. MK

    With the loss of draft picks you have to know the Astros will be in 100%+ in the International Market.

      • MK

        The international players won’t care as the money talks. Astros should have plenty since they won’t be spending any on top of amateur draft.

    • DanD

      The Astros should have been punished with how much International money they have to spend as well for 2 years.