Some surprising news came through on the prospect front today, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reported that the Cincinnati Reds had signed right-handed pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez to a $4.75 million deal. Gutierrez, 20, was No. 4 on MLB Pipeline’s top 30 international prospect list, and was the highest-ranked right-handed pitcher.
Because the Reds already went over their international bonus allotment with the signing of Alfredo Rodriguez earlier this summer, the deal carries a 100% luxury tax. Therefore, the final amount this will cost the organization is around $9.5 million.
Hailing from Cuba, Gutierrez stands at 6-foot-3 and sports an above-average fastball in the 92-94 mph range, touching 97, along with a plus curveball and an average changeup. He worked mostly as a reliever the past couple of seasons in Cuba, but is expected to be given a shot to develop as a starter. Because of his raw stuff, however, a fast track to a major league bullpen wouldn’t be out of the question, either.
Gutierrez has officially been a free agent for over year now, but has spent much of that time weighing his options. His stuff took a step back shortly after he gained his free agency, but as recently as March scouts said that he once again appeared to be back to his old self. Earlier this month, Gutierrez was still considering offers from several clubs, including a chance to pitch in Japan. Ultimately, he chose to make Cincinnati his home.
This is the third time this summer the Reds have made news in the prospect market outside of the draft. In July, the organization finally wrapped up its long pursuit of shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez, a 21-year old who signed for $7 million and wound up costing the Reds around $9 million thanks to taxes. Later in the month, the team scooped up Nevada outfielder T.J. Friedl after he slipped through the draft, a move that already has the looks of being a solid pickup.
It’s obviously far too early to tell if this is something that will pan out well, but the move itself is something Reds fans should be excited about. Gutierrez ranked four spots higher than Rodriguez on MLB Pipeline’s international list, and Ben Badler of Baseball America said he was also higher on Gutierrez. Considering the Reds were able to bring him in for an amount of money that not only doesn’t break the bank, but is less than what they already spent for a guy with a lower ceiling, the oft-criticized front office sure looks like it should get a pat on the back for this one.