The Rangers have made one of the biggest international signings of the year, finalizing an $825,000 deal with Dominican righthander Omarlin Lopez.
Lopez, 19, agreed to terms with the Rangers earlier in the year but only recently had his deal approved, which will allow him to start his career in the Dominican Summer League. A former shortstop, Lopez had been pitching for less than a year when he originally signed with the Rockies for $160,000, but that deal fell apart over an issue with his age. Lopez, who trained with Victor Baez, is now claiming to be one year older than he had presented himself on his Rockies contract and is using an Oct. 8, 1993 date of birth.
A lanky 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Lopez has good arm speed on a low-90s fastball that has touched 95 mph. He also show feel to spin a hard 78-81 mph curveball that some scouts have called a slider but has sharp downer bite when he throws it right. He also has flashed a changeup for a third pitch, although some scouts have expressed concern about his durability due to his thin build.
Lopez is the biggest international signing of the 2012-13 period for the Rangers. His bonus is the sixth-highest bonus for an international amateur pitcher of the signing period, behind Jose Castillo ($1.55 million to the Rays), Juan Carlos Paniagua ($1.5 million to the Cubs), Jose Mujica ($1 million to the Rays), Alex Reyes ($950,000 to the Cardinals) and Luiz Gohara ($880,000 to the Mariners). Paniagua and Reyes were the only two pitchers signed out of the Dominican Republic to get a higher bonus this signing period.
The Lopez deal also continues a trend of Dominican pitchers signing for big money despite not being 16, the age at which international amateur players are first allowed to sign and have historically commanded the highest bonuses. Paniagua signed when he was 22, while Reyes signed when he was 18 after moving to the Dominican Republic from New Jersey. Dominican lefthander Jacob Constante signed with the Reds for $730,000 in January when he was 18, while Dominican righthander Simon Mercedes signed with the Red Sox for $800,000 in March 2012 when he was 20.
The signing period ends on June 15, after which there is a “closed period” during which teams are not allowed to sign any international players until the 2013-14 signing period begins on July 2. Teams are not allowed to carry over bonus pool money from one signing period to the next, so teams have less than two weeks left to use any remaining space in their 2012-13 pools.