The highest rated international prospect in the game of baseball was officially declared a free agent by Major League Baseball on Thursday morning, meaning it’s highly likely that toolsy OF Luis Robert will become a very rich human in the near future. FOX’s Ken Rosenthal broke the news this morning, and while the timing of the news breaking isn’t necessarily important, the timing of his free agency being confirmed by MLB certainly is.
You remember that the Cincinnati Reds blew past their international signing bonus pool within the last year to sign both Alfredo Rodriguez and Vladimir Gutierrez. In doing so, they were forced to pay a 100% tax on all dollar amounts that exceeded their roughly $5 million pool - that ended up being some $7 million in taxes since the combined amount the two prospects signed for totaled about $12 million. Well, since Robert became a free agent before the new CBA’s international signing rules kick in - ones that include a hard cap for international signings - that means the Reds are still operating with having to shell out 2 bucks for every 1 they use to sign an international prospect.
There’s a caveat there, though. Since their free spending has consequences in future signing periods - the Reds won’t be able to offer anyone more than $300K in the next two international signing periods - there’s incentive for the team to be aggressive until the end of this period while they still can. Baseball America’s Ben Badler noted as much when he discussed the timing of Robert being declared a free agent back in March, and it’s not such a farfetched idea at all. In fact, the Reds have distinct interest in Robert, as The Enquirer’s Zach Buchanan wrote about just last week.
While there’s certainly incentive for the Reds to go for it now while they still can, it’s quite likely that the bidding for the 19 year old dynamo will escalate to the point where the Reds won’t have the financial capacity to keep bidding. However, it sure sounds as if GM Dick Williams will be in on the bidding, which will be thoroughly interesting to watch in the coming weeks.
In other news, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon spoke with Amir Garrett after the rookie lefty’s sizzling 12 K outing against the Baltimore Orioles last night. Of note was Garrett’s continued usage of his developing changeup, a pitch that he’s used quite well against RH bats so far this season. Also, it seems Amir’s father was in the stands to see him pitch last night for the first time in the big leagues, as health issues had prevented him from making either of his son’s first two appearances with the Reds.
Also from Sheldon: it seems that Devin Mesoraco’s return to the big leagues may happen as early as today. We took a look yesterday at some of the ramifications his return to the roster would cause, specifically how Rule 5 draftee Stuart Turner would be caught in a bit of a procedural pinch.
The Chicago Cubs come to town on Friday to begin a weekend series, and while the reigning World Series champs still boast one of the absolute best rosters in all of baseball, FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan took a look at what’s become a bit of an alarming trend they’ve faced through the season’s first few weeks. The Reds will face the imposing pitching trio of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and John Lackey in their three game series, unfortunately missing Kyle Hendricks - who is throwing his fastball nearly 3 mph slower this year than last year.
Finally, that’s Amir Garrett sitting in the top 10 in all of MLB in FIP, and sitting an impressive 14th in all of baseball in the all important BB/9. Walks will haunt, as you know, so it’s no coincidence he’s joined near the top of the latter list by the likes of Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard, Felix Hernandez, and Matt Harvey. Keep it up, rook!