Even though Andy Ibanez has been a free agent since February, he remains unsigned, with team officials throughout the game uncertain of what was happening with the Cuban second baseman.
Now, Ibanez has switched agents and will be represented by Relativity Sports after he had been with Bart Hernandez and Praver Shapiro Sports Management, according to multiple sources. Ibanez, 22, has had private workouts for teams and held multiple open showcases, including one in Miami in April. After that showcase, multiple club officials said, Ibanez's representatives told teams they were accepting bids, which usually indicates that a signing is imminent, but the change in representation will alter his timetable.
Ibanez is subject to the international bonus pools and is eligible to sign during the current 2014-15 signing period. It seems more likely, however, that Ibanez would wait to sign until July 2, when the 2015-16 signing period opens, giving teams a chance to have his bonus (and likely ensuing penalties if they exceeding their pool) count toward the 2015-16 period.
Scouts have been tracking Ibanez for years, going back to when he played for Cuba's 16U national team in Taiwan in 2009, then on the 18U team in Canada in 2011. After separating himself as one of the top young players in Cuba's junior national leagues, Ibanez spent three seasons playing in Serie Nacional for La Isla De La Juventud, winning a gold glove award during his rookie season in 2011-12. During his final season (2013-14) in Cuba, Ibanez batted .267/.377/.435 with six home runs, 33 walks and 28 strikeouts in 280 plate appearances.
Ibanez was the youngest player on Cuba's 2013 World Baseball Classic roster, though he played sparingly there. He saw more action later that summer at the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands, where he went 9-for-15 (all singles), including a 3-for-5 game in Cuba's championship victory.
At 5-foot-11, 183 pounds, Ibanez has a strong build for a second baseman, with scouts highest on him praising his righthanded bat and overall baseball smarts. Others have reservations because Ibanez lacks any standout tools. He's a fringe-average runner whose arm is average at best, with below-average power that makes him more of a doubles threat into the gaps. Several scouts believe in his ability to hit, and he does have an extensive track record of strong game performance. He's a better prospect than 21-year-old Cuban shortstop Roberto Baldoquin, who signed with the Angels in November for $8 million, although that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be reflected in his bonus.
Once Ibanez signs and gets cleared to play, based on his present talent level, he should be ready to handle a Double-A assignment, though he may need time at a lower level to get acclimated to pro ball. Since he’s subject to the bonus pools, he will have to sign a minor league contract, with all of the money going into his signing bonus.