The Reds officially signed Cuban shortstop Jose Israel Garcia on Saturday, per a team announcement. The deal was reported by Baseball America’s Ben Badler on Tuesday and confirmed by the club after Garcia passed his physical on Thursday, but had yet to receive clearance from MLB. Garcia received a $5 million signing bonus, which cost the Reds $10 million after they exceeded the international spending cap.
Garcia, 19, is the third international player the Reds have picked up during the 2016-17 signing period. While he’s not projected to have the same ceiling as fellow Cuban prospect Luis Robert, he impressed in the Cuban junior leagues and batted .320/.426/.410 over 149 PA for the 18U league in 2016. According to Badler, the hot-hitting infielder profiles best at second base, but has the range for shortstop and the arm for third base if need be. He’s expected to report to the Reds’ affiliate in the Dominican Summer League.
Prior to Garcia’s signing, the Reds also picked up Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez and right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez last year. Per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, they’ve spent over $17.5 million on 20 international prospects during the current signing period, handcuffing them to a $300,000 cap for any additional international signings they make over the next two years.
According to Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Reds are unlikely to land Cuban outfielder Luis Robert when he becomes eligible to sign with a major league team on Saturday. Comments from Reds’ GM Dick Williams suggest that Robert could command a price far above what the club is able to pay. Not only will the 19-year-old outfielder’s speed and power attract a sizable contract, but any interested team that previously exceeded their international spending limit will be forced to kick in a 100% penalty on whatever bonus Robert receives. That includes the Reds, who blew past their limit last year after inking shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez to a $7 million deal and paid the 100% penalty when they signed right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez several months later.
Robert has garnered substantial interest around the league and appears to be in line for a heftier contract than those of fellow Cuban stars Rodriguez and Gutierrez. Recent reports from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, among others, list the Astros, Athletics and Padres as other potential suitors, with the White Sox and Cardinals looking like notable frontrunners. Passan cites unnamed sources who claim Robert has already chosen a landing spot and is just biding his time until the deal becomes official on Saturday.
With the increasingly restrictive measures of the collective bargaining agreement curtailing the amount teams can spend on international talent, Robert figures to rake in the last significant payday for Cuban players. That makes things difficult for the Reds, who would have had to drop something like $20 million upfront just to see whether Robert’s elite tools survive the transition to the majors. Per Buchanan:
We saw a player we liked and were willing to go to a certain amount for him if we can get him,” Williams said. “There’s a certain amount beyond which a franchise in our market just can’t afford.