It was a surprise when the news broke Friday that the A's were the favorite to sign Cuban OF prospect Lazaro Armenteros, a 17-year-old who has been eligible to sign a contract with a major league team since February. The A's signed "Lazarito" today to a deal that includes a $3 million signing bonus.
The A's entered the 2016-2017 international signing period with an allotted pool of $3,818,700 and had already been linked to a half-dozen prospects whose reported bonus demands were going to take up nearly the entirety of Oakland's allotment. Adding Lazaro to the tally means Oakland has spent nearly double what they had been expected to spend just days ago. The A's will be taxed accordingly, having to pay a dollar-for-dollar penalty for anything over their $3.8 million allotment.
Therefore Lazaro's signing bonus will end up costing Oakland $6 million dollars: $3 million to the player and another $3 million to the offices of Major League Baseball. The A's total financial commitment to the latest international signing period currently projects to just under $10 million.
Let's look at the newest members of the Oakland Athletics organization.
Lazaro Armenteros: 6' 2" 205 R/R OF Age: 17 (5/22/99)
Signing Bonus: $3.0 MM
As mentioned earlier, "Lazarito" defected from Cuba in 2015, where he was one of the top players in his age group. A potential 5 tool star particularly noted for his raw power potential and speed, Lazaro has received mixed scouting reports since being declared a free agent in January of this year. Some feel he's developed a bit of a showcase swing, meaning he added some upper-cut to impress during batting practice. This could be an issue (if true) since he showed trouble catching up to high fastballs in the 15U World Cup when he (would have had) a swing more geared to competitive baseball. He's also received plus and fringe-average reports on his throwing arm... point being at 17 he's a kid and he's going to be a project that will take time to develop. Lazaro is a high-ceiling player who profiles best as a power-hitting RF.
Marcos Brito: 6' 165 B/R SS Age: 16 (3/6/00)
Signing Bonus: $1.1 MM
Brito rates most highly for his switch-hitting bat, featuring good bat speed and an all-fields approach. The younger brother of current Rockies farmhand Anthony Brito, Marcos has shown good plate discipline and polish for his age. Soft hands and smooth actions in the field help make up for an average arm and foot speed. He doesn't to project to hit for much power but his bat could still rate plus (and some think even higher) by the time he matures. At 16 he's young enough that a growth spurt could cause his tools to all tick up a notch but for now he profiles as a good hitting, slick fielding 2B.
Yerdel Vargas: 6' 170 R/R SS Age: 16 (2/17/00)
Signing Bonus: $1.5 MM
Vargas is another player who earns mixed reviews, with some scouts calling him one of the best defensive SS in the current class and others... not so convinced of that. Almost all agree that SS or not he projects to be a quality defensive infielder. He earns praise for smooth actions and footwork while his arm earns an average or better rating. An average runner with maybe the chance for average power at maturity thanks to a long, lean build and quick bat speed, part of the scouting discrepancy can be linked to day-to-day inconsistency. It sounds like his swing needs to be worked on but he's also described as being a high energy kid with a a good baseball IQ, so with any luck he'll take to coaching.
Kevin Richards: 6'1" 160 R/R OF Age: 16 (1/8/00)
Signing Bonus: $600 K
Baseball America rated Richards as the best overall athlete in this year's class, noting his combination of tools, athleticism and body-type. He's described as a quick-twitch athlete with plus-plus speed, a strong arm for CF... and a bat that's as crude as crude can be. The A's basically need to teach him how to hit. His pitch recognition is rudimentary and he swings from his heels but he has the bat speed to hurt baseballs when he makes contact. Again, its going to be dependent on Oakland's ability to build Richards' swing virtually from scratch. If they can accomplish that they could have an All-Star.
George Bell: 6'2" 165 R/R 3B Age: 16 (1/3/00)
Signing Bonus: $500 K
If the name sounds familiar its because George Bryner Bell is the son of former AL MVP George Bell. The bloodlines pretty much guaranteed him a six-figure signing bonus but scouts like his short swing and strong arm. Showcased as a SS, Bell is expected to begin his career at 3B. Bell is currently a below-average runner so if he can't stick in the infield he might struggle converting to the outfield. I'm not one to put a lot of stock in a parent's scouting report of their own child but George the Older swears his son has a stronger arm than he did at that age.
Oakland has also been linked to 3B Jordan Diaz from Columbia. I haven't found much on Diaz but it looks like he had a deal in place with Arizona back in February to sign with them for $150 K. For some reason that deal fell through and I'm penciling in the A's to sign him for a similar figure.
Allotted Pool For Int'l Signings: $3,818,700
Total Signing Bonus Commitments: ~$6.85 million
Final International Expenditure (Tax Included): ~$9.88 million
With the recent news that the A's just signed Logan Shore, the 47th overall pick in the June draft, to an above-slot bonus worth $1.5 million Oakland has now spent approximately $20.3 million to add talent to the farm system. This figure includes roughly $3.25 million in penalty tax for going over the team's allotment pools in both the draft and international market. The direction the A's have taken in the last 30 days is clear: they are looking towards the future.
Expect the team to continue that trend over the next 30 days.
One final look at the table of Oakland's draft bonus pool spending, courtesy of Jeremy F. Koo. The A's got about as close as reasonably possible to their upper limit without incurring relevant penalties:
|Rd||Ovr||Player||School||Pos||Class||Signed (Bonus)||Bonus Pool||Over/Under|
|3||83||Sean Murphy||Wright State||C||JR||$753,100||$753,100||$0|
|4||112||Skylar Szynski||Penn HS||RHP||HS||$1,000,000||$531,500||$468,500|
|8||232||Will Gilbert||NC State||LHP||SR||$75,000||$182,900||($107,900)|
|16||472||Anthony Churlin||Island Coast HS||CF||HS||$175,000||--||$75,000|