Clubs Open Wallets For Cuban Defectors

Rounding up the top Cuban signings from 2010




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Since the White Sox gave Dayan Viciedo a four-year, $10 million major league contract that included a $4 million bonus in December 2008, Cuban defectors have continued to flood the market.

Nine months after Viciedo's deal, the Red Sox locked up shortstop Jose Iglesias to a four-year, $8.25 million big league deal with a $6.25 million bonus. Many more Cuban players are still waiting to be unblocked, while others have been working out in the Dominican Republic for more than a year waiting to get signed.

The Cuban market is filled with high-profile flameouts, but the promise of landing the next Alexei Ramirez, Kendry Morales or Jose Contreras without having to project as far in to the future as it would for a 16-year-old from Venezuela or the Dominican Republic is too tantalizing for many organizations to pass up.

Including Reds lefthander Aroldis Chapman and his $16.25 million bonus, more than a dozen Cuban defectors agreed to bonuses of at least six figures in 2010, including five players who earned at least $1 million.

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Reds: Chapman electrified big league stadiums when the Reds promoted him to Cincinnati in late August. Now the only question left is whether the Reds will let him move back into the rotation.

Adeiny Hechavarria, SS, Blue Jays: The 21-year-old defensive whiz landed a $10 million big league deal including a $4 million  bonus. Scouts' concerns about his bat were evident in the minors, but his defense came as advertised.

Noel Arguelles, LHP, Royals: Kansas City had hoped for more from the 21-year-old Arguelles when they gave him a five-year, $6.9 million deal including a $3.4 million bonus last January. His left shoulder prevented him from throwing his first professional pitch last year and required surgery that will prevent him from being ready for spring training.

Yunesky Maya, RHP, Nationals: One of the top arms in Cuba's top league, Serie Nacional, Maya signed for $1 million in July. He got thumped when the Nationals rushed him to the big leagues in September before recovering in the Dominican League. At 29, Maya is a potential back-end starter who could contribute in Washington this season.

Rubi Silva, OF, Cubs: Silva, 21, signed for a $1 million bonus in December. An aggressive 5-foot-11, lefthanded hitter, Silva batted .276/.305/.428 in 283 at-bats with La Habana in Serie Nacional in 2008-09. He's a versatile athlete who runs and throws well with a line-drive stroke and gap power.

Juan Carlos Linares, OF, Red Sox: In July the Red Sox signed Linares and reportedly agreed to a $3 million deal with catcher Adalberto Ibarra, but Ibarra's deal had to be renegotiated when a physical revealed that his throwing shoulder required surgery. Linares, a free-swinging, 26-year-old righthanded hitter, signed for $750,000. He's a good defender and has some raw power but will need to be more selective at the plate.

Cesar Lopez, RHP, Pirates: The Pirates agreed to terms with Lopez in September for  a $600,000 bonus, which is still pending Lopez acquiring his visa. Lopez, 20, is a sinker/slider pitcher who can run his fastball up to the low 90s.

Felix Perez, OF, Reds: Perez originally agreed to terms with the Yankees for a reported $3.5 million bonus, but Major League Baseball nixed that deal and suspended him for one year for lying about his age. Perez, 26, agreed to a $550,000 bonus with the Reds in May and reached Double-A. He doesn't have a standout tool but could be a useful fourth outfielder.

Leslie Anderson, 1B/OF, Rays: Anderson, 28, reached Triple-A after signing for $500,000 in April, but after signing Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon the Rays designated Anderson for assignment on Tuesday. Anderson lacks prototypical corner power but makes a lot of contact, plays solid defense and is near big league ready.

Yaniel Cabeza, C, Cubs: Cabeza, 21, signed with the Cubs for $500,000 the same day as Silva, and the two were former junior national teammates along with Iglesias, Hechavarria and Viciedo. Scouts give Cabeza high marks for his catch-and-throw skills, though his defense is well ahead of his hitting.

Reinier Roibal, RHP, Giants: Roibal, 22, signed in April for $425,000, but was limited to bullpen work in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he had a 2.08 ERA, 14 strikeouts and five walks in nine innings.

Jorge Padron, OF, Red Sox: A 24-year-old lefthanded hitter, Padron signed for $350,000 in March. Padron is a free swinger and a contact-oriented hitter with gap power.

Juan Yasser Serrano, RHP, Cubs: Serrano got a $250,000 bonus from the Cubs in March, but the 22-year-old was hit hard in the short-season Northwest League, where he posted a 5.48 ERA in 64 innings.

Sergio Espinosa, LHP, Rays: Espinosa, 24, is a reliever who can reach the low-90s and signed for $100,000 in May. He spent most of 2010 in Double-A, where he had a 4.83 ERA and a 29-16 K-BB mark in 501⁄3 innings.