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On January 8, 2013 Cuban defector and shortstop Aledmis Diaz will turn 23. Why should you care?
When Cuban defector Aledmis (some sources say Aledmys) Diaz turns 23 on January 8, he will no longer be subject to Major League Baseball's amateur spending limit. When the Cubs signed Jorge Soler and the Dodgers grabbed Yasiel Puig, they weren't limited as to how much they could sign for, as they both played the defector version of the game show Beat The Clock. The new international spending rules went into play in July 2012, and Soler signed with some time to spare. Puig cut it a bit closer.
Fellow defecting outfielder Dariel Alvarez is exempt from the cap due to his age and experience. Alvarez has played in the top Cuban league for at least three years, and is 24. Diaz has played enough 'big league ball' in Cuba, but until he turns 23, he would count against the signing team's limit of just under $3 million total. The Cubs'/ bank is down to about $700,000. As of the eighth day of next year, Diaz can sign for whatever the market will bear. It will bear him well over $3 million in bonus money. Diaz is more advanced than the older Alvarez, a power-hitting outfielder capable of playing all three outfield positions.
What will the market bear, and who will fork it over? Nobody is quite sure on either player. The first question to ask may well be: is either one worth a 40-man spot? When a team signs a player off of limited scouting, the potential to miss is certainly more possible. By all appearances, the Cubs paid too much for the services of Gerardo Concepcion. That said, Concepcion had some skeptics before he was signed. He is younger than either of the hitters in question, and Cuban hitters seem to be on a roll. Yoenis Cespedes was very important in Oakland winning their division in 2012. Jorge Soler hit very well in the Midwest League last season, and Yasiel Puig hit better than most critics of his signing thought.
If Diaz and Alvarez represent as well as Cespedes, Soler, and Puig, they will be in for a rather big payday. I'd love to link to some applicable YouTube links on the players, but their performance has been rather well obscured so far. To put a number for a contract on players I haven't seen play would be quite an exercise in futility. I'll say this much, though: I'm confident Theo Epstein will be in attendance (and/or have some of his chief deputies watching) when Diaz and Alvarez have a public workout on January 5 in Mexico.
When Leonys Martin signed with Texas in May 2011 (five years, $15.5 million), the Cubs never really seemed in play. The Rangers wanted him, and no serious rumors placed the Cubs anywhere near that range. Whether the team hadn't scouted him seriously, did and didn't like what they saw, or simply didn't want to invest that heavily, I have no realistic idea. However, by the next month, Tom Ricketts encouraged the front office to draft 'the best players' at the amateur draft. Since Leonys Martin signed, the Cubs have acted like a major market team, at least on amateur signings and drafting.
Will that carry over to these two? Should it? I suspect Epstein will make legitimate offers to both, trying to add at least one to a major-league deal. Does it matter the team has shortstop solidified for the near future? Could Diaz play third? Is Alvarez worth a $20 million deal? This is another reason I'm happy the front office has a game plan now. They might be outbid. One or the other might not fit their plans of a Cubs future. I'm confident that if Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod really want one or both of them, they will be freed up to submit impressive bids to get them.
Which is certainly preferable to what was the case 20 months ago.