According to multiple sources, the A’s have signed Cuban RHP Norge Ruiz to a minor league deal with a signing bonus of $2 million.
A's agree to terms with RHP Norge Ruiz, a 22-year old international free agent from Cuba, on a minor league deal.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) December 23, 2016
Since the A's have gone over their allotted 2016 International Signing Pool, they'll be subject to a tax. That effectively makes this signing a $4 million dollar deal, $2 million to Ruiz and $2 million to MLB.
Ruiz is 23 years old meaning his MLB ETA isn’t far out like it is with many international signings.
#Athletics newest international signing Norge Ruiz was coveted by a number of teams. 23 and could contribute fairly soon.— Melissa Lockard (@oakclubhouse) December 23, 2016
Ruiz-type signings are really important for rebuilds. Spend $ on foundation and surplus young talent. Deal from position of strength.— Melissa Lockard (@oakclubhouse) December 23, 2016
In 2015, Ben Badler of Baseball America (Badler is awesome, btw) ranked Ruiz as the best Cuban pitching prospect at the time. You can read Badler's analysis and see video of Ruiz pitching here. In his writeup of the A's signing Ruiz today, he sees Ruiz as a possible future 3/4, which would be an absolute get at his pricetag.
MLB.com ranks Ruiz as the third best international prospect, offering this writeup:
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Change 50 | Split 50 | Control: 60
Ruiz has been called a bulldog on the mound because of his tenacity and aggressive approach.
There's a belief that the right-handed pitcher is almost ready to pitch in the Major Leagues and could be pitching in the big leagues in some capacity by the end of 2016 or early 2017.
Here's why: Ruiz has a fastball that has been clocked at 94 mph and he often works in 90-92 mph range. He throws a "heavy fastball," and his repertoire also features a slider, a cut-fastball, a changeup and a split-fastball thrown at various arm angles. He's a groundball pitcher with the ability to change speeds and keep hitters off balance in the batter's box. He's not physically intimidating, but he knows how to pitch and evaluators like how he handles himself on the mound. That said, Ruiz's command has been described as "scattered at times."
Pitching coach Fausto "Chiqui" Mejia and former Major League pitcher Alberto Reyes worked with Ruiz in the Dominican Republic. The pitcher is represented by Octagon.
This is a nice signing, especially after the A's missed out on Edwin Encarnacion. Signing guys like Ruiz, as Lockard points out, is an excellent way to find talent when the free agent pool is dry and without as much risk. Nothing not to like about this from the outset, and it's hopefully another sign of the A's being a bit more aggressive with their payroll.
This is an updating post. Check back for more details!