With the current lockout in place, there has been a freeze of transactions involving players at the MLB level. During this period, teams are still able to offer Minor League contracts. That includes the yearly international free agent signings, where teams sign talented players from outside the United States and her territories. This year marks the first full cycle since the International Signing Period was moved from July 2nd to January 15th. The signing period was moved back six months during the 2020 season due to COVID concerns and other issues affecting MLB at the time.
The Arizona Diamondbacks enter this signing period with a bonus pool of roughly $6.2MM, a pool reserved for teams who had a Competitive Balance Round B pick in the previous MLB Draft, to sign as many players as they can. Often the process includes teams and players agreeing to a deal as far back as two years ago, but can’t officially sign a contract until this signing period opened today. The modus operandi of this front office is less about putting a lot of money into one blue chip prospect and instead electing for signing a bunch of players just outside the top tier of talent and see what sticks later.
The highest ranked player the Diamondbacks ended up signing is infielder Abdias De La Cruz, a 17-year old infielder out of the Dominican Republic, for about $1.2MM. De La Cruz was ranked 36th on MLB Pipeline’s Top 50 International Prospects as a tall and lanky shortstop who has the physical tools to be a solid defender on the left side of the infield. The biggest area of development will be filling out a 6’2” 170-lb. frame to add more power to his bat, but that might not show up in the box stats until at least 4 years down the road.
Nin is another infielder and one of the youngest players in the class after turning 16 last August. Nin stands at 6’1” 165 with a left-handed swing geared more for contact over power at this point. Defensively he projects to likely end up at either middle infield position with solid across the board tools. He signed for roughly $900K, which ranked 48th on Baseball America’s Top 50 signing bonuses in this year international class.
Other notable signings:
- Dominican Infielder Ruben Santana
- Dominican Catcher Andy Encarnacion
- Venezuelan Catcher Omar Moya
- Venezuelan Catcher Jose Colmenarez
- Dominican RHP Abel Fuerte
Most of these players are roughly 16-18 years old and much less physically developed as an athlete compared to their counterparts in the US. We’re likely talking at least 2-3 years before any of these players become serious prospects as they have to go through the Dominican Summer Leagues before getting promoted to play games at their team’s respective Spring Training complexes. That’s often part of the process of trying to catch up to their American counterparts, who will already be at the complex stage the minute those players are signed. We’ve seen time and time again players who signed modest signing bonuses blossom once they went state-side and on better nutrition and strength programs overcome their initial projections.