July 2 doesn’t get as much attention as July 31’s non-waiver trade deadline, but it’s still a pretty significant date in the baseball world. Today marks the first day of the international signing period. If you take a look at the signings today and over the next couple of weeks and months, you’ll notice that the great majority of these players are 16 years old and come from Latin America.
The Rangers have already grabbed the headlines this morning, signing Dominican outfielder Nomar Mazara to a bonus worth more than $5 million, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com. The previous record for a signing bonus during the international signing period was the $4.25 million the Athletics gave to Dominican right-hander Michael Ynoa in 2008.
Rojas writes that the 16-year-old Mazara “is a 6-foot-5 outfielder who hits for power from the left side of the plate.” Ben Badler of Baseball America ranked the top 40 expected signing bonuses yesterday and Mazara checked in at 10th on the list. Dominican outfielder Elier Hernandez, who was ranked first on the list, has signed with the Royals for $3.05 million.
Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.
According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.
Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.