Dec 11, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Arizona Diamonbacks general manager Dave Stewart check out of the Manchester Grand Hyatt following the MLB Winter Meetings. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Thanks to a pretty poor free agent class here in America, the Arizona Diamondbacks have turned their attention to the foreign market to improve both their big league roster and their depth in the minor leagues.
Earlier this offseason, the club signed Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas to a six-year, $68.5 million deal. Tomas is expected to start his career down at third base, instead of in a crowded D-Backs outfield.
On Tuesday, Arizona signed pitcher Yoan Lopez, a fellow countryman of Tomas’. The $8.27 signing bonus that the D-Backs gave Lopez is the largest for a young player who wasn’t born in the United States, Canada or Puerto Rico.
The front office must really like the young right-hander because he is going to cost them.
"Because Arizona would exceed its pool of $2,316,600 by 15 percent or more for the one-year period ending July 1, the Diamondbacks would incur a 100 percent tax on the overage and be barred for the next two signing periods from adding an international player subject to the pool with a bonus over $300,000."
Not being able to sign any international players of the next two signing periods is definitely a risk. There will be plenty of top talent which will come out over the next two seasons, but if this front office thinks Lopez is a top of the rotation guy, it’s worth the gamble.
Of course, we are going to have to wait to see that happen. Unlike his new teammate Tomas, Lopez is highly unlikely to start his career off with the big league club. He is more than likely expected to start off his pro career at A-ball and slowly work his way up through the minor league system.
D-Backs general manager Dave Stewart appears open to letting Lopez compete for a spot during spring training though.
"“I like what I saw and we’re going to give him an opportunity to compete for a spot this spring,” Stewart said. “All of our prospect pitchers will more than likely start at Double-A. That’s more than likely. I don’t know that to be a fact at this point, and if that’s the case and if he does not make our team out of Spring Training, we’ll send him wherever our prospects are and have them all come along together.”"
In three seasons in Cuba, Lopez posted a 3.12 ERA to go along with 28 strikeouts and 11 walks in 49 innings. As far as his stuff is concerned, Lopez throws four pitches; a cut fastball, a changeup, a curveball and a slider. His best pitch is said to be his fastball, which tops at 93-95 mph right now, but of course that could change as he continues to mature.
With spring training right around the corner and the offseason coming to an end, you can’t help but like what the Diamondbacks have done with these international signings. Instead of panicking and signing a free agent that they really don’t like, they have taken a new and fresh approach with the Tomas and Lopez signings.
Time will tell if these two moves were the right decision, but you have to admire what this front office is doing with trying to improve this club over the long haul.