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Cleveland Indians Signings: Indians sign IFA RHP Leandro Linares

Linares, who defected from Cuba, was one of the better pitchers available in international free agency.

Dennis Grombkowski's Jesse Sanchez first broke the story over the weekend, and yesterday he confirmed that the Indians have in fact signed international free agent Leandro Linares:

Linares, 19, pitched for the Cuban National Team 16-and-under squad in competitions in Chinese Taipei in 2009 and Lagos de Moreno, Mexico, in 2010. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound pitcher made a name for himself on the island by starring for Villa Clara in the 16-and-under and 18-and-under divisions in the National Championships in Cuba from 2009-2012.

Linares defected from Cuba, but because of his age and experience, he falls under the IFA category and therefore the cap system put in place by MLB. Cuban defectors that are 23 years and older and have played at least three seasons as a professional are considered major-league free agents and can sign major-league contracts. So that's why the Dodgers were able to give Yaisel Puig $42M and the Athletics were able to give Yoenis Cespedes $36M, while the Indians signed the 19-year-old Linares to a minor-league contract with $950,000 signing bonus. The Indians have the fifth-largest international bonus pool this season (starting July 2), with $3,636,900 to spend. Earlier this signing season they inked 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Junior Soto for $600,000 and Dominican shortstop Willy Castro for $850,000.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has more on Linares:

Linares left Cuba before he had a chance to make an impact in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, but he was one of the country’s top up-and-coming pitchers. When he pitched in Cuba’s 18U national league last year, Linares posted a 1.91 ERA in with 76 strikeouts in 66 innings. He wasn’t a great strike thrower, as he walked 46 batters and hit seven more. Scouts who have seen him working out in the Dominican Republic have also noticed that he needs to improve his control and repeat his release point more frequently, although he does have a sound delivery

Based on Linares' age and ability, he would be a good fit for the Indians' AZL team, assuming all the visa paperwork could be completed quickly. Or they could have him pitch on the DSL club this year, and bring him to the US in 2014 as a 20-year-old.