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Latin signings “a whole ‘nother draft” for Cubs
OAKLAND – Cubs manager Dale Sveum hasn’t seen any video of the Dominican and Venezuelan teenagers the Cubs signed this week to multi-million-dollar deals, but the significance of the Cubs’ most aggressive summer of international free agency in club history isn’t lost on the second-year manager.
“It’s like a whole ‘nother draft,” Sveum said, “to be able to pick the best international players and get the first and third pick. 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 that 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, MLB now caps spending for teams on international free agents in July, penalizing teams that overspend their allotment with stiff taxes on the excess – up to severe limits applied to the following signing season.
Already allotted the second-highest amount of spending space, based on last year’s lousy record, the Cubs traded for more signing “slots” (and assigned bonus allotment) Tuesday to wind up with more cap space than anyone else.
According to plan, they’ll overspend even that increased number and pay the price – even if it means no big-money signings next year – because the scouting department likes this year’s Latin free agent class so much.
“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.”
Relative to the youth and risk, it’s a lot of money to spend on 16-year-olds no matter what their skills look like now.
But if even one from this summer’s class becomes an impact player, the Cubs would figure to get a shot of high talent four to six years from now, when they plan to already be competitive again.
In the June draft, the Cubs have had the No. 9, 6 and 2 overall picks the past three drafts and could wind up with a top-5 pick again by next June.
This year’s international class theoretically backfills the top talent in the pipeline as those players (and their classes) rise from A ball over the next few years.
“To be able to spend the money and get those [coveted international] guys it’s just kind of like what we just went through in the draft with just a little different type thing,” Sveum said. “The difference is you can take 16 year old kids.”