Baseball America were the first to report the news, with the deal still pending completion of a physical. The bonus is a record for an international amateur, breaking the mark of $8 million set in November when the Anaheim Angels signed another Cuban, middle infielder Roberto Baldoquin. MLB's Jesse Sanchez added some interesting details to the bare bones information, first saying on Twitter, "La Russa & Dave Stewart played a large role in Lopez's decision to choose AZ," and another factor in the decision was that the young pitcher "also believes he can make it to MLB faster with AZ."
The cost to the team will actually be substantially higher, since the deal does blow away our allotted international signing bonus pool amount. This was set at $2,316,600 for this season, and the deal with Lopez puts us up into the luxury tax category. We will have to pay a 100% surcharge on the amount over that, so close to another seven million, and we are also prohibited from signing any further international amateur agents for more than $300,000 for the next two signing periods. But, it appears, the team decided that going all in on Lopez was worth enduring those penalties.
It also appears we were not the highest bidder for his services, according to Sanchez, a source tells him, "Lopez turned down a $9 million offer from another club because he believed Arizona was the best fit." Arizona fans responded in unison, "Suck it, Dodgers," accompanied by dancing in the streets. Though it appears he will get an invite to spring training, this is a minor-league contract, and it seems all but certain he will not be part of our 2015 rotation. Baseball America reckons, "Given his age and talent level, one of the Class A levels would seem like a good fit for him to start." He's 21, so would be about the same age as a typical post-colege signing.
However, he may move quickly through our farm system since Lopez was already at the top level of Cuban baseball, pitching for Isla De La Juventud in their Serie Nacional. He made seven starts for them before leaving the country, with a 3.12 ERA with a K:BB ratio of 28:11 over his 49 innings with them. BA's scouting report says, "Lopez was one of the more intriguing young arms in Cuba at the time he left the island. In Cuba, Lopez had thrown in the low-90s, but he added size and strength since then to his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame and has touched the mid-90s."
Even though it may well be a couple of years before he has any impact on the Diamondbacks at the major-league level, I'm still stoked by the signing. Like the selection of young players in the most recent draft (our first five choices were all teenagers), and some of the trades made this winter, it seems to be an indication a longer-term strategy for the team. This is in sharp contrast to the increasingly-desperate "reloading" of the Kevin Towers era, which tried desperately to recapture the magic of the 2011 season, but instead spiraled Arizona down to the worst record in the major last year.