Cuban slugger Jose Abreu appears to be making progress in his journey to the Major Leagues.
Abreu has established residency in Haiti – the first step to becoming a free agent – and has been unblocked by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), according to an industry source. He has also petitioned for free agency from Major League Baseball and will be eligible to sign with a big league club when he is declared a free agent.
A showcase for Abreu, 26, is tentatively scheduled for the end of the month but there’s a chance he won’t sign until sometime this winter, possibly as late as the Winter Meetings in December, the source said. According to reports, the Giants and Red Sox are among several teams that have already expressed interest.
A known commodity on the international scene, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound slugger hit .360 (9-for-25) with three home runs and nine RBIs in six games in this year’s World Baseball Classic. He’s a former MVP in Cuba, where he had one of the best seasons in league history in 2010-11, hitting .453 with 33 home runs and 93 RBIs in just 66 games.
Abreu is represented by agents Barry Praver, Scott Shapiro and Bart Hernandez.
Cuban infield prospect Alexander Guerrero has signed with Scott Boras Corp. and the agency is now leading negotiations, according to an industry source.
Guerrero, who was formerly represented by Rudy Santin and Manny Paula at MVP Sports Management and Consulting Agency, was closing in a multi-year deal worth $32 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Boras is now entertaining offers from all 30 teams.
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Guerrero is a veteran of Serie Nacional, the island’s top league, and was an All-Star in 2010 and ’11 with Las Tunas. He defected from Cuba earlier this year, established residency in Haiti and had been training in the Dominican Republic. Guerrero was granted free agency by Major League Baseball in July, but did not secure an unblocking license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which would allow him to sign with a Major League team, until Sept. 6.
Guerrero participated in a series of showcases in front of scouts at the Dodgers’ complex in the Dominican Republic in July, where Los Angeles eventually emerged as the favorite. Known for his powerful bat and speed on the bases, Guerrero felt slighted when he was left off the Cuban team roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic and eventually left the island.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is going to Philadelphia.
On Friday, the right-handed pitching prospect from Cuba agreed to a six-year deal worth close to $60 million with the Phillies, according to an industry source.
Gonzalez is expected to get a few starts in the Minor Leagues but is close to Major League-ready and could join the team by the end of the season.
Several teams, including the Blue Jays, Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, Marlins, Red Sox, Rangers, Twins, and Yankees, expressed serious interest in the right-hander and almost every club had representatives at his two showcases last month in Tijuana, Mexico. Scouts have been watching him throw bullpen sessions in Mexico since April.
Because he is at least 23 years old and has played at least three seasons in a Cuban professional league, Cuban Gonzalez was not subject to the new international signing guidelines established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
It’s already been quite a journey for the 26-year old.
Gonzalez fled Cuba earlier this year, landed in El Salvador and worked out for a month in Mexico City before making his way to Tijuana. He had been throwing full bullpen sessions in front of scouts twice each week for the past few months and took the mound for the Tijuana Toros twice.
Representatives for the 6-foot-3 Gonzalez submitted paperwork to the United States Department of Treasury for the purposes of unblocking him in February and began petitioning MLB for free agency a month later. Gonzalez filed a copy of his residency card from Mexico — the final step to becoming a free agent — to the Commissioner’s Office at the end of May and was cleared by the U.S. government to enter into an agreement with a Major League club last week.
The hard-throwing right-hander has a fastball in the mid-90s, a changeup, fork and a curveball. He made a splash on the international scene at the 2010 University Baseball Championships in Tokyo, and also shined at the Baseball World Cup in ’09 and ’11. He was suspended from Cuba’s national team for most of the past two seasons for trying to leave the island.
He threw his fastball in the mid-90s during his two showcases in Tijuana and touched 97 mph.
The Indians are closing in on a deal with Cuban teenage right-hander Leando Linares Gonzalez worth an estimated $1 million, according to an industry source.
Linares, 19, pitched for the Cuban National Team 16-and-under squad in competitions in Chinese Taipei in 2009 and Lagos de Moreno, Mexico in 2010. The 6-ft-3, 205-pound pitcher made a name for himself on the island by starring for Villa Clara in the 16-and-under and 18-and-under divisions in the National Championships in Cuba from 2009 to 2012.
Because he is not at least 23 years old and has not played at least three seasons in a Cuban professional league, Linares Gonzalez is subject to the new international signing guidelines established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Indians have signed four players, including shortstop Willy Castro who signed for $850,000, for a total close to $1.4 million since the international signing period began on July 2nd. Cleveland entered the international signing period with a bonus pool of $3,636,900.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was asked about Puig’s lack of cooperation with the media Tuesday afternoon at Chase Field. Puig responded to the criticism in an interview with MLB.com following Tuesday night’s 6-1 victory against the D-backs:
“In Cuba, there wasn’t much press. Here, I have a lot of press on me and it’s not something I really like. Maybe they don’t understand the situation I’m in. I’m not bad, I just don’t like the press and I don’t like the fame. I’m having fun and I want my team to get the attention. There are a lot of guys in the bullpen or in the dugout waiting for their turn to talk. It’s not that I don’t want to give an interview, I just don’t want all the press all over me all of the time.”
Here’s our interview with Puig:
Cuban outfield prospect Dariel Alvarez is ready to sign with a Major League club.
On Thursday, Alvarez, 24, a right-handed hitter who played for Camaguey in Serie Nacional, told MLB.com that he was declared a free agent by the Commissioner’s Office in January and cleared by the U.S. government to enter into a contract with a big league club a month later. He said a change in representation is part of the reason his appearance on the market has been delayed.
“I am ready,” said Alvarez, who is in Florida on a work visa. “I can sign. Just waiting on the best opportunity.”
On Wednesday, Alvarez starred in an open showcase in front of a group of scouts that included representatives from the Dodgers, Rangers, Red Sox, Royals, Mariners, D-backs, Padres, and Yankees in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The Marlins did not attend the workout.
Alvarez defected from Cuba last summer and later played professionally in Vera Cruz, Mexico. The 6-foot-2, 190 pound can play all three outfield positions and has impressed Major League scouts with his above-average arm.
Because Alvarez is at least 23 years old and has played at least three seasons in a Cuban professional league, he is not subject to the new international signing guidelines established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
I didn’t know who Richard Ben Cramer was the first time I met him in 2008. We were in the press box at Yankee Stadium and I believe Richard had just started the reporting phase of his biography on Alex Rodriguez. Maybe the book was just an idea back then. I’m not sure.
As for me, I was just a couple of years off the Texas Rangers beat at the time and I was still trying to find my way as a national/international reporter for MLB.com. Honestly, I was just trying to find my way.
I remember my colleague Jeff Passan was saddled up to Richard and he “was giddy as a school girl.” It was just like Jeff to know exactly who Richard was and just like Richard to try to blend in like one of the guys. Jeff is the kind of person who not only knows how the best writers in the business write but he also knows what they look like. Maybe that’s part of the reason he’s one of the best in the business, wearing skinny ties and all.
So Passan tells me that Richard is one of the all-time greats. He wrote DiMaggio’s book and another awesome piece on Ted Williams. Richard is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Passan reminds me.
I’m not sure how it all began but Richard and I eventually started talking about Alex Rodriguez. I covered A-Rod during his time in Texas and I got to know him as well as Rodriguez allowed a reporter to get to know him in those days. I remember giving Richard my take on A-Rod: It seemed like everyone wanted to identify with Rodriguez in some way and that was part of the problem. Rodriguez is American, he’s Latino, he’s a New Yorker, he speaks English and he speaks Spanish. He comes from a humble background and has “daddy issues” like a lot of people do. People want to believe he’s one of us, I said, but he’s not. He doesn’t seem to fit into a box and he’s not what you think he is or what you want him to be. A-Rod is A-Rod. That’s it. He would be eccentric if he worked at Subway or was a plumber or a railroad man.
Again, it was just my impression of Rodriguez after covering him for three years, but I trusted my gut on this one. After all, A-Rod’s first years with the Rangers were my first years on the beat and I knew more about understanding personalities and reading people than I did about the sport in those days. Richard and I compared Rodriguez to a child actor and tried to recall a child star who didn’t end up with some serious issue. Rodriguez seemed like a guy who did not have any limits and we imagined what that kind of life that would be like.
We laughed. The game ended. It was just another day at the park and we said our goodbyes. Again, I had no idea how accomplished Richard was and I didn’t Google him until later…much later. I probably wouldn’t have been so open with my opinions if I had known who he was. But Richard reminded me of my grandfather and he was easy to talk to. He was warm and pleasant. I’ll never forget his laugh.
A few months later, Richard emailed to tell me he was coming to Dallas to work on his A-Rod project. He wanted to know if I wanted to accompany him to Highland Park, Rodriguez’s former Dallas neighborhood.
I still don’t think I really understood who Richard was and what he meant to journalism back then. He was just Richard. Hell, I typed “Richard Kramer” when I programmed him into my cell phone. I agreed to go along for the ride and it’s one of the best decisions of my life.
The drive around one of the richest neighborhoods in Dallas was one I’ll never forget. I remember telling Richard the Bushes live in the Highland Park area, right next to (former) Rangers owner Tom Hicks and Rodriguez. We pulled into a posh shopping center full of boutiques, bistros and high-dollar sedans and laughed at the gaudiness of it all. We eventually settled in at Starbucks for a chat. I want to write important stories, I told him. I want to do long-form or a book one day. He says I’m doing great already because I’m writing about the great game and sharing stories about Latinos with the world. And besides, he says, I get to travel to Latin America and see the world in the name of baseball. I was one lucky dude and he told me not to forget how fortunate I was. He also said writing books was a pain in the butt if you are not ready for it. The right time and the right opportunity will come, he said. Richard nonchalantly tells me he wrote a 1,000 page book about a political campaign and immediately knew it was way too long. He said he wondered what kind of people would be crazy enough read that many pages and if it was all a complete waste of time.
He also said Alex Rodriguez reminded him of many of the politicians in his book. It was always about the power and women with those political guys, he said.
So we finish our tour of Dallas and we returned to my Uptown apartment to drop off my jacket because I didn’t want to carry it across the street to the bar at the W Hotel. I was sharing an apartment with a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader at the time and I’ll never forget the look on Richard’s face when he saw all of her photos hanging in the living room. One of the girls in the photos would go on to star in The Bachelor and later Dancing with the Stars. Another married a ball player from Texas who used to play for the Rangers. They all starred in a reality television series. I was living the dream – or so it seemed. But Richard knew better. We spent the better part of the night at the W bar talking about the woman in Arizona who I was madly in love with and how I wanted to be with her. He told me about his marriage, his loves and his family. We talked about writing, being true and embracing happiness. He reminded me to follow my heart and enjoy my life. He told me what I already knew but needed to hear again: Things will always be OK.
I heard Richard’s publisher sued him for the advance on the A-Rod book because the project didn’t meet their deadline. The publisher wants the advance back, I read. I just want the receipts from that night at the bar at The W as a keepsake.
We kept in touch in the years that followed. I called him when I decided to move to Phoenix to be with Yvonne, the love of my life and the best reporter I know. I called him with the news of our son’s birth and our marriage. We talked about Selena Roberts’ portrayal of A-Rod in her book. It’s not that he didn’t like Roberts’ book. He just didn’t think it was deep enough. In one of our last conversations, Richard mentioned how hard it had become to reach A-Rod. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen with the book project but he knew it was going to be much harder without Rodriguez’s cooperation. He wasn’t mad at Rodriguez. Frustrated? Yes. But he understood who Alex was and he accepted him. He liked Rodriguez because he understood him. He loved A-Rod’s ex-wife Cynthia.
It had been a while since I had spoken to Richard, and I partly blame him. I had listened to my heart but had forgotten about the time that passes in between the beats. I was in our backyard storage unit on Saturday, pulling out the cradle, the stroller, some baby clothes for our baby who’s coming in a few weeks when I thought of Richard. I came across the autographed copy of his book on DiMaggio that I had put away for safe keeping and it made me smile. Richard had also signed a copy of What it Takes: The Way to the White House for my good friend Richard de Uriarte, a longtime editorial writer, reporter and politico-type in Phoenix, a man who knew exactly who Richard Ben Cramer was.
I meant to call Richard Cramer that Saturday. I wanted to tell him how he was right all along about almost everything. I meant to tell him how we decided to name our second son Diego Dean Sanchez because I knew he’d get a kick out of knowing that “Diego” was the Spanish version of “James,” and our boy was going to be “James Dean Sanchez.” I didn’t get around to calling him that day and I regret it.
I read the news of Richard’s death on Twitter on Monday night and I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to call him. Maybe it was all a mistake and maybe Richard would answer the phone. The horrible news was confirmed by numerous outlets.
This morning, I looked up Richard’s number in my cell so could offer my condolences to whomever answered the phone and chuckled when “Richard Kramer” appeared in my contact list right after Richard de Uriarte. The call went directly to voicemail and the sound was Richard’s voice asking to please leave him a message.
I hung up after the beep.
Richard was never big on listening to messages, anyway. What he did best was deliver them and I’ll never forget everything he shared with me. One day, I’ll share those messages with my sons when the time is right and the right opportunity comes along. I’m guessing it will probably come outside of a Starbucks in some fancy shopping center in Dallas, Texas, but I’m keeping an open mind.
The MLB Prospect League tryout tour made its first stop in Masaya, Nicaragua on Friday. Next stop: Cartagena, Colombia on Saturday. The tour continues in Panama City, Panama on Sunday and concludes in Curacao on Monday. The MLB Prospect League International Showcase, which will feature prospects from those four countries along with prospects from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, is scheduled for next month in the Dominican Republic.
The Cardinals have signed Dominican right-handed pitching prospect Alex Reyes for $950,000, according to an industry source.
The 6-ft-3, 190-pound Reyes played high school baseball in Elizabeth, New Jersey but moved to the Dominican Republic in 2011. Projected as a starter, Reyes is expected the start the 2013 season in the Gulf Coast League. He throws a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s mph, a curve and a change.
The start of this year’s international signing period is only a few weeks old but it’s never too early to look ahead to July 2, 2013.
Folks in the baseball industry will have a chance take a look at some of the top international teens on the market next year in a four-day showcase that will feature USA Baseball’s 15-and-under team, teams made up of the top prospects in Major League Baseball’s Prospect League and possibly one team from Puerto Rico next month in the Dominican Republic.
But before we look too far into the future, let’s take another look back at MLB.com’s Top 20 International Prospect List for 2012 (as published on April 23) and where they signed.
1. Gustavo Cabrera, OF, $1.3 million (Giants)
2. Franklin Barreto, SS, $1.45 million (Blue Jays)
3. Jairo Beras, OF $4.5 million (Rangers)
4. Amaurys Minier, SS, $1.4 million (Twins)
5. Wendell Rijo, SS, $575,000 (Red Sox)
6. Luis Torrens, C, $1.3 million (Yankees)
7. Alexander Palma, OF, $800,000 (Yankees)
8. Jose Mujica, RHP, $1 million (Rays)
9. Richard Urena, SS, $725,000 (Blue Jays)
10. Frandy De La Rosa, SS, $700,000 (Cubs)
11. Nathanael Javier, 3B, $500,000 (Giants)
12. Luis Castro, SS, $800,000 (Blue Jays)
13. Luis Barrera, OF, $450,000 (A’s)
14. Ronny Carvajal – Did not sign
15. Julio De La Cruz, 3B, $700,000 (Pirates)
16. Jose Pujols, OF, $450,000 (Phillies)
17. Deivi Grullon, C, $575,000 (Phillies)
18. Tzu-Wei Lin, SS, $2.05 million (Red Sox)
19. Jose Castillo, lhp, $1.55 million (Rays)
20. Juan Carlos Arias – Suspended
Shortstop Amed Rosario, signed by the Mets for $1.75 million, received the highest bonus this year. Other signings worth noting included outfielder Hector Caro, who received $1.1 million from the Indians, and third baseman Carlos Belen, who signed with San Diego for $1 million.
In all, there were eight players that signed for at least one million dollars. The average for the first 80 players to sign when the international signing period began July 2nd was approximately $361,000.
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the international system operated with money pools and penalties for teams that exceeded their pool of $2.9 million this year. Starting in 2013-14, the pools will be based on the prior season’s winning percentages, with a range of approximately $1.7 million to $4.8 million.