International men of mystery: Some under-the-radar signings by the Reds

Jamie Sabau

The Reds haven't made the big waves this year on the international signing scene they have in years past. There are no Aroldis Chapmans or even Yorman Rodriguez's coming into the fold - at least not using cash as a judge of talent.

In 2008, the Reds gave Yorman a signing bonus of $2.7 million. That's $2.93M in 2013 dollars - which would be $1M more than their "bonus pool" limit. As of a recent rule change, MLB teams are penalized for spending above a certain amount during the course of a one-year signing period on international prospects who are under 23 and do not have at least three years of "professional experience."

Part of the reason the Reds haven't been as aggressive internationally is that they're competing. The resources and focus have shifted to the major league roster. They also haven't been in the position to expand their bonus limit and trade established players away for more slot money (which teams can do, apparently). They sit with the Yankees, Braves and Nationals on the lowest bonus pools, while the Cubs and Astros are ranked #1 and #2. MLB gives more  space to basement dwellers and those teams, in the interest of rebuilding, pile on even more.

The Reds aren't the small-budget mom-'n'-pop operation they once were, but they do have certain market limitation to their payroll. And with a lack of depth in the high minors, it would help if they took some measures to restock the farm. Getting more international spending flexibility is one way.

But they haven't done nothing. In fact, they may already have done everything.

After the signing period opened in July, they signed Dominican lefty Luis Tejada and gave him a $600K bonus.  On July 19th, there were reports that the Reds had signed 16-year-old Venezuelan righty Jonathan Perez. Jocketty made a non-denial denial to John Fay, but Baseball America followed up and confirmed the deal.

Perez - not to be confused with another Jonathan Perez who played 3B in the Reds' Dominical Summer League team - was reportedly given  a $825K bonus. Assuming BA got the details correct, that would make him the highest-paid prospect of the signing period.

Then last month, the Reds signed 20-year-old Cuban outfielder Reydel Medina. Medina has plus power and speed tools, but concerns about plate discipline. The Reds gave him $400K. With the minor league season over, he'll probably start at Dayton next year.

The Reds also gave $730K to 19-year-old Dominican lefty Jacob Constante this spring. Constante threw 38.2 impressive innings for the Reds' Dominican Summer League team. The previous signing period ran from July 2, 2012 to July 1, 2013, so Constante counted toward the previous pool. He was by far the marquee acquisition, getting over $500K more than the next biggest bonus (Luis Hernandez, Dominican Republic).

The 2013-14 signing period is just two months old, but the Reds may already have dried up their pool ($1.862M). Perez takes the lion's share and Tejada and Reydel make up an an even $1M. Given the rush on prospects, that's not much of a surprise.

However, there may still be players out there like Constante, or those waiting to defect, that the Reds would like to go after. With a lot of uncertainty on the farm, the Reds might want to free up some space. They could do that by trading for slot values with another team, adding up to 50% above their total pool (so, $930K for the Reds).

The deadline to do that is the end of the current signing period -- June 15, 2014. While the front office might not have a compelling reason right now to trade players for the right to spend money, they might be able to get a bargain from a team that has a surplus and doesn't figure to do much with it. Jocketty might also want to act under the suspicion that this whole system is a prelude to international prospects entering the draft. You might as well snatch up some talent before both your money and you number of prospects have hard caps.

In any case, I'd guess he's going to keep flying in stealth mode.

Baseball America contains almost all of the information on international signing news and rules. They are one of the best.

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