Some news about signing Cuban players broke late on Thursday, courtesy of Baseball America’s Ben Badler.
“Today, the commissioner’s office declared that 16-year-old outfielder Jonatan Machado and 17-year-old second baseman Omar Estevez will both be eligible to sign during the current 2015-16 international signing period. Under MLB’s registration policy, any international player born after Sept. 1, 1995 (like Machado and Estevez) must officially register with the commissioner’s office by May 15 to be eligible to sign during the following signing period that begins annually on July 2.
That rule has created a problem for young Cuban players, who have to leave Cuba and then establish residency in a foreign country before they can even register with the commissioner’s office. So for players like Machado and Estevez, who were believed to still in Cuba as of May 15, they could not have legally registered to sign. Despite language in the CBA that allows leeway for a player to be eligible if “the player has a compelling justification for his failure to register,” the commissioner’s office has previously had a blanket policy of not granting exemptions, even for Cuban players.”
This is a pretty significant piece of news and benefits the Dodgers almost immediately (also the Cubs, Giants and others). Most importantly, it benefits Cuban players attempting to begin a major league career. If players area allowed to register after May 15 for the current-year signing period, there are even more Cuban players who could be in play later in the year.
This was a concern before the Dodgers signed Yadier Alvarez. There was talk the Commissioner’s Office might make him eligible to sign during last year’s signing period. There’s no telling whether the Dodgers would have signed him, but they basically passed on signing Yoan Moncada so they could sign the likes of Alvarez, Starling Heredia, Ronny Brito and any other international free agents they want until June 15, 2016.
If more players are available to sign — and money is truly no matter for the Dodgers (it isn’t) — then they might go on another July 2-esque signing spree sooner rather than later. Since they will be restricted to signing players for up to $300,000 next year, it makes sense for them to double down and spend more now, if the talent is there.
Other players who could soon be available are Randy Arozarena, Yusniel Diaz, Norge Ruiz, Yasiel Sierra and Luis Yander La O. Guys like Eddy Julio Martinez and Vladimir Gutierrez are free to sign (and do fall under the international signing rules), but have yet to do so. The Dodgers were said to have the inside track on Martinez with an $11 million bonus, but he still hasn’t signed a deal. The Giants and Reds are interested in the 20-year-old Cuban outfielder. There’s no word on how much it might take to land Gutierrez. I’m sure that information will come out after he has a showcase event.
The Dodgers have already spent a lot of money on this year’s international crop. With the likes of Estevez, Machado and the guys named in the previous paragraph, the Dodgers could add even more talent to an increasingly deep farm system. It’s getting a little weak at the top after losing Joc Pederson (rookie playing time exhausted) and Hector Olivera (traded) and with Corey Seager, Julio Urias and Jose De Leon not long for the farm system, they’ll need to replenish it as much as possible. Money is the Dodgers’ greatest asset and there is no better way for them to use it other than here … while they still can.