For years, the Detroit Tigers have frustrated prospect watchers by passing on the upper tier players in the international free agent market. In what may herald a changing approach, the Tigers have reportedly agreed to pay Venezuelan shortstop prospect Alvaro Gonzalez a million dollar signing bonus, as reported by Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The Tigers have yet to confirm the terms of the deal.
The last time that the Tigers paid out a seven figure bonus for an international free agent was in 2010, when they signed outfielder Danry Vasquez from Venezuela. He was later shipped out in a trade for relief pitcher Jose Veras. We know how that turned out.
Gonzalez is currently ranked 23rd on MLB Pipeline’s top 30 ranking of international prospects. Baseball America has him ranked 39th. He is a switch-hitter with advanced bat speed for his age and has shown ability to generate hard contact, according to multiple observers. He also has the arm to transfer to third base as his body develops, but may be able to stick at shortstop for the long haul.
#Tigers VS J2 signing ($1M), Alvaro Gonzalez, is already physical (6-0,170), may keep growing, + arm, likely 3B, good contact w/ gap power.— Mark Anderson (@ProspectMark) July 2, 2017
Gonzalez is one of three 16-year old shortstop prospects the Tigers have agreed to terms with. Also added were Carlos Irigoyen, another Venezuelan shortstop whom Baseball America ranked 43rd, and Dominican shortstop Yonneiry Acevedo, who agreed to a $300,000 signing bonus.
Today’s moves seem to continue a trend for the Tigers of seeking middle infield prospects in the international ranks. Players like Eugenio Suarez, Hernan Perez, and Dixon Machado have all followed this path into the Tigers’ system in recent years. More recently, the Tigers spent $400,000 on Dominican shortstop turned second baseman, Hector Martinez back in 2013. If Gonzalez’s bonus heralds a more substantial effort from the Tigers to deal in the international free agent market, there should be plenty more signings to come.
The “international signing period” begins July 2 and runs through June 15, 2018. The period is the time frame where international signing bonus limits are set by major league baseball on an annual basis. The Tigers have a budget of $4.75 million to spend on bonuses during this period.
International signing rules apply to players who live outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and are not in a U.S. College or high school. An international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team if he is 16 or will turn 16 before Sept. 1.
Eleven major league teams are under penalty because they blew past their bonus pool limits in previous years, often giving large bonuses to the top international prospects. The Tigers typically spend up to their bonus pool limit and spread the money around 25-30 players. Those under penalty can not give a bonus of more than $300,000 to any one player. Players signed for $10,000 or less are exempt from the bonus pool limits.
Also exempt from bonus pool limits are Cuban players over the age of 25, or those who have spent at least five seasons in a Cuban professional league.
The Tampa Bay Rays signed shortstop Wander Samuel Franco for a bonus of $ 3.825 million, the highest paid bonus in this year’s signing period.