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Indians sign six players on first day of international free agency

A brief look at the six international free agents signed by the Indians on Wednesday

Al Bello

Wednesday marked the beginning of MLB's international free agent signing period. Unlike regular free agency, when players sign over the course of months, with many of the top names waiting a long time before agreeing to a deal, international free agency tends to play out very quickly, and so many of the most highly rated talents signed with a team within the first few hours, and the Indians (like most teams) have already spent most of their budget.

The Indians are allowed to spend $1,980,700 this year, which is one of the smaller budgets (that's due to budgets being determined by how teams do in the previous season).

Actually, teams can spend as much as they want, but they are taxed 100% of any overage, and if they exceed by 5-10% or more, they cannot sign anyone for more than $500,000 next year, if they go over by 10-15% they cannot sign anyone for more than $300,000 next year, and if they go over by more than 15% they cannot spend more than $300,000 in either of the next two years.

Here are the six players the Indians signed yesterday, all of whom are from the Dominican Republic:

  • Oscar Gonzalez (OF) $300,000 - 6'3", 180 pounds, with a strong arm and good right-handed power
  • Leonardo Rodríguez (RHP) $300,000 - 6'7", 200 pounds, his fastball already touches the low 90s
  • Chris Cespedes (OF) $200,000 - 6'3", 190 pounds, good right-handed power
  • Julio Cabrera (OF) $200,000 - 6'0", 185 pounds, left-hander hitter with a line-drive stroke
  • Henderson D'Oleo (3B) $165,000 - 6'4", 190 pounds, right-handed power and a strong arm
  • Orlando Cedeno (RHP), $100,000 - 6'1", 185 pounds, fast in low 90s, has worked with Pedro Martinez

(Credit to Baseball America and Dionisio Soldevila as the sources for much of that information)

None of those players appeared on the top 30 lists I saw from a couple different outlets, but it's worth noting that these signings are even more hit-and-miss than the MLB draft, which shouldn't be surprising, give the extreme youth of the players involved. There were a number of future All-Stars signed yesterday, but they weren't necessarily the ones signed for the biggest bonuses.

Among those signed in recent years were Oscar Taveras, now one of the top five prospects in baseball. His bonus was $145,000. Yordano Ventura, a Rookie of the Year candidate in the American League this season, was signed for just $28,000.

On the other hand, here are the the 16-year-old players who signed for $1,000,000+ through 2008 (meaning they've had enough time to have arrived in MLB since signing):

  • Michael Ynoa (2008, Athletics, $4,250,000)
  • Rafael Rodriguez (2008, Giants, $2,550,000)
  • Yorman Rodriguez (2008, Reds, $2,500,000)
  • Joel Guzman (2001, Dodgers, $2,255,000)
  • Angel Villalona (2006, Giants, $2,100,00)
  • Juan Duran (2008, Reds, $2,000,000)
  • Adys Portillo (2008, Padres, $2,000,000)
  • Miguel Cabrera (1999, Marlins, $1,800,000)
  • Jesus Montero (2006, Yankees, $1,650,000)
  • Jackson Melian (1996, Yankees, $1,600,000)
  • Ricardo Aramboles (1998, Yankees, $1,520,000)
  • Michael Almanzar (2007, Red Sox, $1,500,000)
  • Esmailyn Gonzalez (2006, Nationals, $1,400,000)
  • Fernando Martinez (2005, Mets, $1,400,000)
  • Willy Aybar (2000, Dodgers, $1,400,000)
  • Carlos Triunfel (2006, Mariners, $1,300,000)
  • Luis Domoromo (2008, Padres, $1,250,000)
  • Roberto De la Cruz (2008, Cardinals, $1,100,000)
  • Julio Morban (2008, Mariners, $1,100,000)
  • Kelvin De Leon (2007, Yankees, $1,100,000)

Granted, there's still time for some of those guys to pan out, as the 2008 signees are still only 22 years old, but there are twenty players on that list, and only one of them has become even an average MLB player (granted, that one is Miguel Cabrera, one of the five best players of the last decade, but the point still stands).

The Indians still have $715,700 remaining in their budget (and they could spend another $99,000 without it limiting their options for next year), so there will probably be another one or two medium-priced signees, along with a number of lower bonus additions.