As a result of penalties from their international spending spree in 2015, the Cubs had been limited the past two summers in how much they could spend in total and on one prospect ($300,000). With those spending caps removed, at least to a great degree, the Cubs are once again able to go big.
Armed with a bonus pool of almost $5 million, the Cubs attacked on the first day of international free agency by using $4.6 million on just five prospects. At the top of that list is pitcher Richard Gallardo from Venezuela, who they signed for a reported $1 million.
The 6-foot-1, 187 pound righty was ranked No. 5 by MLB Pipeline and No. 6 by Baseball America. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez wrote the following of Gallardo in his breakdown of the top 30 international free agents:
“The teenager’s best pitch is his fastball, but he also projects to feature a good curveball and an above-average changeup. He already shows good command and feel for his pitches and the mix results in a lot of swing-and-misses. Gallardo is still growing, and the hope is that he will increase the velocity and overall command of his fastball with age.”
Gallardo dazzled most scouts this spring, showing off an excellent fastball with a good curve and changeup. He also displayed amazing command for a 16-year-old. Here is some video of that showcase:
If you speak Spanish, you can learn more about Gallardo in his own words here:
The Cubs also spent $1.5 million on 16-year-old Luis Lopez from the Dominican. A toosly kid, Lopez is known for his high quality of play and he is already showing gap-to-gap power and good defense at a premium position in center field. At only 5-foot-10 and 167 pounds, he’s still got a lot of room to develop physically. MLB Pipeline had him as the 17th best prospect in this year’s class.
Joel Machado, from Venezuela, is also 16 and a left-handed pitcher. Signed for $850,000, Machado was ranked at 28 by MLB Pipeline. In the Baseball America video below, you can see his upper 80’s/low 90’s fastball and a developing curve.
The Cubs also signed shortstop Rafael Morel for $850,000. His brother Christopher plays for the Cubs’ short-season affiliate in Eugene. While Christopher is around 6 feet tall and plays third, Rafael comes in around 5-foot-9 and is said to have the skills to stick at short.
Finally, the Cubs inked outfielder Yohendrick Pinango for $400,000. His name sounds like something Willson Contreras would yell before a mound visit, but he’s got some legit skills. A left-handed batter from Venezuela, Pinango is already pretty well developed at 5-foot-11 and weighs 195 pounds.
The first chance most of us will get to see of these players will be in fall instructs this October and then again in spring training in 2019. Because of their relatively high signing stature, all five should begin their stateside careers next June in Mesa.
The money spent on these five prospects leaves just under $400,000 for the Cubs to use through the middle of June 2019 to sign any more international players. Based on how they were able to sign almost 80 players over the past two years with limited finances, they will be fine. If needed, the Cubs can also trade for more IFA money with other clubs.