8/15/2013 2:46 P.M. ET
Cubs stock up with bumper international crop
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The stars, the talent, the rules and the resources all aligned this year for the Cubs to spend in the international market.
The team has signed four players ranked in MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospects, including No. 1 Eloy Jimenez and No. 3 Gleyber Torres. On Monday, the Cubs added Taiwanese right-handed pitcher Jen-Ho Tseng for a $1.625 million bonus.
With those signings, plus others, the Cubs will face a penalty for exceeding their spending pool by 10 to 15 percent. But president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said they were prepared for that. Because the Cubs had the second-largest amount of pool money -- determined by how the team finished in 2012 -- they wanted to take advantage of their position.
"We budgeted for it with respect to the 100 percent tax," Epstein said. "Next year, we'll spread our money around with some pitching instead of going after the large investments. We like the large investments this year."
The penalty for surpassing their bonus allotment would be a 100 percent tax on the overage as well as restrictions on 2014-15 spending. Because teams cannot acquire more than 50 percent of their initial international bonus pool, the maximum bonus pool for the Cubs was $6.836 million. With the addition of Tseng, the Cubs have committed $7.895 million to international prospects.
"That [international] market, you're talking $1 million here, $1 million there, and that's the type of thing we can afford," Epstein said. "Right now, we're not in a position to throw around hundreds of millions of dollars in free agency, but we can do it in that [international] market and try to monopolize it as much as we can."
The timing was right. Epstein said this was the last year in which the penalty for going over the allotted pool was fairly lenient. The maximum penalty involves only one year of limitations on signing a player beyond a certain level. Going forward, the limitation will be for two consecutive years.
"We also had a feeling there wasn't going to be an international Draft next year, which also contributed to the strategy, because otherwise we would've lost the first-round pick," Epstein said. "We really liked the elite talent in this year's class relative to the early returns of next year's class.
"All in all, we felt there was a little bit of a loophole we could run through and exploit. The chance to sign two of the top position players in this year's Draft plus a high-ranking pitcher plus a number of other interesting players made a lot of sense, and we can take a different strategy next year where we really need to replenish some of our organizational pitching depth. We can spread some of the money around with lower-level investments that might match up better with the talent available in next year's class."
Who have the Cubs signed? Here are the top players:
• Tseng: The 18-year-old Taiwanese right-handed pitcher was ranked 29th on MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospects rankings. He was the youngest player named to the Chinese Taipei World Baseball Classic roster. Tseng also was part of the 2012 World Junior Championship, and he played in the 2012 Asian Baseball Championship for the national team for Chinese Taipei. His fastball has hit 95 mph.
Sporting an above-average fastball, ranging from 89-96 mph, and a real good slider in the mid- to upper-80s, Tseng has been used as a closer and a starter. He also has an above-average changeup, which is unique for a prepster, and a very good curveball. The right-hander was a senior in high school when he pitched in the World Baseball Classic.
The Taiwan pro league started a draft this year in hopes of keeping players like Tseng from going to the U.S. Major Leagues. His signing was big news in Taiwan, similar to an NBA team signing Kobe Bryant or LeBron James out of high school.
Cubs international scout Steve Wilson got to know the family well, and he was instrumental in the signing.
"We were looking to make as big an impact as we could," Epstein said. "Finding an advanced arm, relatively speaking, made sense there. We had really good scouting reports on him before the [World Baseball Classic]. ... We're excited about his potential."
• Jimenez: The Dominican outfielder was the prize pickup for the Cubs. Ranked No. 1 among the Top 30 International Prospects, the 16-year-old signed for $2.8 million. He played in the RBI program in the Dominican Republic and for the International Prospect League. A right-handed hitter, Jimenez has plus speed, gap-to-gap power and is still growing into his 6-foot-4 body.
• Torres: Ranked No. 3 on MLB.com's list of Top International Prospects, the 16-year-old shortstop was the top Venezuelan prospect in this year's class, and signed with the Cubs for $1.7 million. A solid defender, scouts like how he can hit to all fields with power with his compact swing. Torres checks in at 6-feet, but is athletic and strong.
• Jefferson Mejia: The 18-year-old Dominican right-hander pitched in the International Prospect League All-Star Game. He has a 90-93 mph fastball, changeup, and solid curve, according to reports. Mejia signed for $850,000.
• Erling Moreno: The right-handed pitcher was a star pupil at Team Renteria Baseball Academy in Barranquilla, Colombia, and yes, that is headed by former Major League shortstop Edgar Renteria. Moreno, 16, is a hard thrower and has a fearless approach on the mound. He was ranked No. 17 on the list of Top 30 International Prospects. Moreno signed for $650,000.
• Johan Matos. The Dominican catcher signed for $270,000. A teenager, he was not ranked on MLB.com's top 30 list or Baseball America's top international prospects list.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.