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Tigers connected to a pair of international free agents

Baseball America the Tigers to a pair of high-end teenage position players from the Dominican Republic.

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers have never invested heavily in the international market. While they have produced some nice infield talent for their size of investment in the past five years, they never signed one of the big international free agents. Apart from passing interest in Yoenis Cespedes back in the day, there haven’t even been many rumors.

We have some rumors now, though. The Tigers are keyed in on a pair of high-end prospects when the next signing period opens on July 2, according to Baseball America. Ben Badler identifies center fielder Jose de la Cruz and shortstop Adinso Reyes as the Tigers’ two main targets.

De la Cruz is the prize of the two at this point, and is expected to receive a $2 million signing bonus, which is roughly 40 percent of the Tigers’ pool. The Dominican Republic native draws plus grades for his speed and arm, and shows substantial power potential for a legitimate center field prospect.

When De la Cruz squares up a pitch, he makes hard, loud contact, driving the ball well to the middle of the field. He has a fast bat but he will have to make adjustments with his swing and approach to make more frequent contact, as he took several empty swings through fastballs both in and out of the strike zone.

Reyes is a 6’0, 195 pound shortstop from the Dominican Republic who has the frame to hit for serious power. However, he sounds like a little more of project defensively at this point. Like most international prospects, he’s just 16 years old, so he may well grow out of the position. Reyes expected to receive a signing bonus of $1.5 million.

New era in the international marketplace

Times have changed. Under the previous international bonus pool system, teams were severely taxed for spending more than their allowance on international players. Of course, the big spenders simply regarded the tax as a cost of doing business for the premium international players available, and paid it willingly. Under the new system, those limits are locked in.

The new system puts teams on a level with each other in terms of spending power that has never existed before. It also puts serious limits on what young amateurs can command from teams. Teams are allotted bonus pools of 4.75 million dollars, with an additional half million for any competitive balance picks they’ve acquired. The maximum pool possible is now 5.75 million dollars. The big spenders can’t just write the check any more.

So far, the Tigers have responded accordingly, committing just about every dollar in their pool to international prospects during the current signing period. Frankly it’s a no-brainer at this point. Their big names in the 2017-2018 period were Venezuelan shortstop Alvaro Gonzalez, who received a million dollar bonus, and third baseman Pedro Martinez, Jr. The Tigers committed $800K to the strapping young infielder, with another $300K in scholarship money.

By and large, international prospects are a long-term investment. Most are signed at 16 years old and take years just to make their first appearances in Single-A ball. They won’t impact the Tigers and their rebuild for a least a half decade. However, for the organization to create sustainable success, these are the kind of investments they need to hit on to prime the farm system down the road.