The Reds have an agreement in place to sign 19-year-old Cuban infielder Jose Garcia, pending a physical. It will be a minor league contract with a bonus expected to be around $5 million. Since Garcia is subject to the international bonus pools, with the 100 percent overage tax, the total tab for the Reds will be about $10 million. He’s expected to start his career in the Dominican Summer League.
Garcia is tall and lean at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, with room to add another 20 or more pounds to his athletic frame, and his game has shown signs of progress since he went to an international tournament in Japan in 2015. He’s a righthanded hitter with a long swing that gets him tied up on fastballs on the inner third, but he’s adept driving pitches on the outer half to the opposite field. Garcia’s limited power is mostly to the gaps, with a chance to hit 10-15 home runs in his prime once he gets stronger. He has shown solid strike-zone judgment for his age during international competition.
When Garcia was in Cuba, he ran home-to-first times that indicated 45 speed on the 20-80 scale and was never much of a basestealing threat. During workouts in Mexico, Garcia ran the 60-yard dash in 6.5 to 6.6 seconds, which is plus or better speed. He has likely increased his speed since getting to Mexico, though he’s also a long strider with an easy gait and a better runner underway than he is with his first-step quickness.
Garcia played second base when he was in Cuba, including at multiple international tournaments, but he’s expected to change positions to develop as a shortstop with the Reds. At second base, Garcia showed good range at times but his hands, footwork and fundamentals might be stretched thin at shortstop. He has a plus arm that would fit at third base, though his power might be light for the position, while going back to second base could be another option. He’s also done some work for clubs in center field.
Garcia generally performed well in the Cuban junior leagues. In 2013 with La Habana, Garcia batted .383/.433/.489 in 105 plate appearances in Cuba’s 16U national league, where he was teammates with Cardinals outfielder Jonatan Machado and Athletics outfielder Lazaro Armenteros.
By 2015, Garcia was playing in the country 18U national league and batted .297/.336/.355 in 149 plate appearances. After the season, he went to Japan to play in the 18U World Cup as a 17-year-old and was teammates with White Sox outfielder Luis Robert. At that tournament, Garcia batted .382/.417/.500 in 36 plate appearances and made the tournament all-star team at second base.
Back in the 18U league in 2016, Garcia batted .320/.426/.410 in 149 plate appearances with 17 walks and 13 strikeouts, then went to the COPABE 18U Pan American Championships in Mexico.
Garcia’s signing falls under the 2016-17 international signing period, which ends on June 15. The Reds went over their bonus pool to sign Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez last year in July for $7 million, then later added Cuban righthander Vladimir Gutierrez for $4.75 million. The Reds won’t be able to sign international amateur players for more than $300,000 for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 signing periods.