The Dodgers capped the 2015-16 international signing period by signing infielder/outfielder Yordan Alvarez. The 18-year-old received a $2 million signing bonus, according to multiple reports, which will cost the Dodgers $4 million after a 100 percent tax levied by MLB is figured in.
The Dodgers will be restricted to $300,000 signing bonuses for the next two international signing periods under the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. The next signing period begins July 2. Since June 15 was the final day of the 2015-16 signing period, the Dodgers were under a tight deadline to sign anyone they considered unattainable with a $300,000 purse.
The Dodgers have spent in excess of $40 million on signing bonuses for international amateurs since July 1, 2015. Figure in the 100 percent tax, and the Dodgers’ actual tab is likely to exceed $80 million — more than at least three teams will spend on their entire major league rosters in 2016.
The Cuban signings get a lot of attention for obvious reasons. Yasiel Puig‘s early success upon his 2013 debut with the Dodgers contributed to a rash of subsequent defections and lucrative signing bonuses, many of which proved to be overpays. The list of Cuban professionals the Dodgers have signed since Puig include names like Erisbel Arruebarrena (under contract but suspended for the 2016 season), Alex Guerrero (recently designated for assignment) and Yaisel Sierra (whose ERA at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga rose to 7.13 today).
But the list of Cuban amateurs signed during this period is much shorter. As of March, the last time the team was willing to provide data for this signing period, only three international signees hailed from Cuba. Alvarez is believed to be the fourth. (A full list of names, positions, and countries of origin of the Dodgers’ international signees is expected soon.)
As I wrote in March, potential changes to the CBA factored into teams’ decisions as the June 15 deadline approached:
As one player agent said: “Teams are cashing out their chips. Time is running out.”
The collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the Players’ Association runs through the end of the 2016 season. For the next CBA, the idea of an international draft has been floated as an alternative to the current system of free agency, bonus pools and overage penalties for teams who sign Latin American players.
Many within the industry believe the obstacles to an international draft are too great to overcome. Others think the dream of 18-year-old Latin Americans being drafted alongside American college and high school players is worth fighting for.
Not a whole heck of a lot is known about Alvarez. He posted an aesthetically pleasing stat line in Serie Nacional (a league weakened by the aforementioned defections) in 2014-15: a .351/.402/.387 slash line and a .789 OPS. He switched teams during the season, going from Las Tunas to Pinar del Rio Vegueros in the league’s Player Dispersal Draft.
Alternately listed as an infielder and outfielder, Baseball America reports that Alvarez was a first baseman in Cuba but worked out in left field for teams. Here’s more on Alvarez from Ben Badler’s story:
Scouts who followed him since he left Cuba said his defense will need improvement at first base, where he plays upright with limited flexibility.
During the 2014-15 season, Alvarez batted .351/.402/.387 in 125 plate appearances with eight walks, 10 strikeouts and one home run. He didn’t play much in Cuba’s 18U national league, since he was already playing for Las Tunas in Serie Nacional as a teenager. When Alvarez played in Cuba’s 15U league in 2012, he was one of the top hitters on the circuit, batting .454/.561/.620 in 142 plate appearances with 24 walks, seven strikeouts and one home run, ranking third in batting average and fifth in slugging.
BA reports that Alvarez has grown to 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. MLB.com puts Alvarez at 6-4 and 190. Here’s more from Jesse Sanchez’s story:
The Dodgers also signed right-handed pitcher Ramon Rosso, outfielder Carlos Rincon and shortstop Damaso Marte Jr. from the Dominican Republic; Venezuelan shortstop Luis Rodriguez and second baseman Aldo Espinoza from Nicaragua. Marte, the son of former Major League pitcher Damaso Marte, signed for a $300,000 bonus.
The club later inked Cuban infielder Omar Estevez for $6 million.
The Dodgers, who had an allotted bonus pool of $2,020,300 but reduced that number to $700,000 after trading away slots, will have to pay an estimated $45 million tax on the overage on the players they signed.