The Chicago Cubs landed one of the big prizes of the off season international free agent market when they signed Cuban defector Gerardo Concepcion to a $7 million major league contract. The eighteen year old left handed starter is one of three Cuban defectors that has been drawing a lot of attention from a numbers of teams. Yoennis Cespedes and Jorge Soler have yet to choose their major league clubs. The Cubs are heavily involved with each of those players as well.
Don’t look for Concepcion in Wrigley right away. He is likely to spend 2012 in Daytona and will could need at least two years in the minors. Despite that, this signing is something Cub fans should be happy about.
Concepcion pitched very well in Cuba last season, often considered roughly equivalent to High-A leagues in the U.S. That would mean he is advanced for his age. That could help him reach the majors more quickly, but it does not elevate his ceiling. Most scouts see Concepcion as a #3 or #4 starter at best. We will have a better idea of his stuff and his ceiling when we see him in a full season league later this summer, but for now we can safely consider him a solid but not spectacular prospect. From what I can tell, he has a very good chance of making it to the majors leagues; he is just unlikely to become a star.
The $7 million price tag is higher than I was hoping, but not higher than I expected. The Cubs did not get a bargain here, but they didn’t get ripped off either. Due to the new CBA, this is the last opportunity teams have to sign high ceiling international talent to contracts of any size without the risk of severe penalties, and I have no doubt that those looming restrictions played a significant role in both elevating the value of the contract and in making it a major league deal.
With this deal behind us, I think it is safe to say that Jorge Soler will also be receiving a major league contract. His deal should be richer than Concepcion’s. A number as high as $15 million would not shock me, but I expect it to be under that. Yoennis Cespedes is likely to receive a deal that approaches $10 million per season and totals around $50 million or more. Cespedes is expected to sign before spring training, and Soler before the CBA restrictions kick in this summer.
It is too early to say who the Cubs will remove from the 40-man roster in order to make room for Concepcion. I would not be surprised if that move is made with a trade instead of a waiver. If both Soler and Cespedes sign, the Cubs will almost certainly need to clear roster room for them as well. There have been recent trade rumors surrounding Matt Garza, Marlon Byrd, and Geovanny Soto, but not all of the proposed trades would have the effect of clearing roster slots. It could be a few days yet before we know which direction the Cubs are likely to go.
I am very happy to see that the Cubs ownership and front office are willing to offer the kinds of dollars necessary to get deals like this done. That bodes well for the team in their negotiations with Soler and Cespedes as well as in future free agent negotiations. The Cubs have the resources to build a winning team, and as they clearly demonstrated tonight, they are willing to use those resources when the right situation arises.