Today marked the first day of the international signing period, the day when the best international prospects become eligible to sign with Major League clubs. The Reds went into this signing period with the second largest bonus pool at just over $5 million. The Reds have used that pick to sign Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez to a $7 million contract, according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.
The saga of the Rodriguez signing has been sort of a back-and-forth affair up to this point, with the Reds apparently striking a deal back in January, and then denying that aforementioned deal. The original rumors came with quite a bit of negativity from Reds fans, and we at Red Reporter even called it one of the best off-season moves because we failed to complete it.
Rodriguez is a 22 year-old light hitting, slick fielding shortstop out of Cuba. He last played competitively in Cuba during the 2014-2015 season, where he hit .265/.301/.284 during his Rookie of the Year season in Serie Nacional. Most recently, he was ranked as the 6th best international prospect according to MLB.com. Here is what MLB.com has to say about the shortstop:
The 2014-15 Serie Nacional Rookie of the Year in Cuba, Rodriguez is a glove-first prospect with good speed (6.6 seconds in the 60-yard dash) and excellent range. The 6-foot, 185-pound shortstop has been described as a high-energy player who is making progress at the plate. Rodriguez is expected to be an everyday player when he gets called up to the big leagues, likely after some time in the Minor Leagues.
Rodriguez won a gold glove in Cuba and made a name for himself with stellar defense. He's also a plus runner and should improve as a base stealer with professional instruction on a daily basis. Scouts like his makeup and his level of confidence. His arm is considered average.
On offense, Rodriguez lacks power, but his light bat should improve as he develops.
Baseball America had similar things to say last May, but is pretty negative on his bat:
Rodriguez, 21, has a long way to go as a hitter but was arguably the best defensive shortstop in Cuba. He’s an athletic, agile defender with smooth, fluid actions. He’s extremely light on his feet and has good body control and range, with an average arm. At around 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Rodriguez is a plus runner who ranked third in Serie Nacional in stolen bases with 12 steals in 16 attempts.
If Rodriguez gets to the major leagues, he likely will never hit higher than the bottom of the order, if his righthanded bat improves enough to get him there. In 84 games this past season for La Isla De La Juventud, Rodriguez batted .265/.301/.284 with three doubles, one triple, no home runs, 11 walks and 38 strikeouts in 304 plate appearances. Rodriguez did have some solid offensive years in the Cuban junior leagues, but his bat is still light. Based on his present ability, he would probably start his career at one of the Class A levels.
This signing shouldn’t be all that shocking among Reds fans, as it seems to be right along with the type of player they have been targeting in their organization, most recently with the acquisition of Jose Peraza last winter in the Todd Frazier trade. The biggest issue with the signing is why they are giving so much money to what seems to be such a low ceiling player. Not only did they sign him for around $3 million more than any other international prospect that signed today, but the $7 million deal means they spent over their bonus allotment, leaving the team to face penalties in the 2017 signing period.
His last season of competitive ball was 2 years ago, so he obviously has had time to develop since his rookie season. By all accounts he has taken that time to get bigger and stronger, which should hopefully improve his power at the plate because that .284 slugging % is pretty dang ugly. The Reds scouting department obviously see something in him to make that big of an investment in him, so hopefully he can prove the rest of the scouts wrong and make that $7 million investment worth it.