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Lednier Ricardo Rumors
Cuban second baseman Andy Ibanez will headline a showcase of four Cuban prospects at the University of Miami today, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (on Twitter). Also working out for teams will be left-hander Ariel Miranda, outfielder Gelkis Jimenez and catcher Lednier Ricardo.
Ibanez, 22, has garnered the most attention of this quartet by a long shot. He was first reported to have defected from Cuba last October, with later reports indicating that he had made his way to the Dominican Republic. Last August, Baseball America ranked Ibanez eighth on a list of the top players still in Cuba, noting that he didn’t have premium tools or superstar upside but was a solid across-the-board contributor at second base.
Because he is under 23 years of age and has less than five years of professional experience in Cuba, Ibanez is subject to international spending limitations. As such, the Cubs and Rangers are ineligible to sign him for more than $250K after vastly exceeding their 2013-14 bonus pools. That effectively crosses them off the list of suitors, unless Ibanez elects to sign after July 2, which would move him into the 2015-16 signing period and clear Chicago and Texas to make aggressive bids. Of course, waiting until July 2 would remove the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Angels and D-Backs from the equation, as each has handily exceeded their bonus pools in this signing period and would be unable to offer Ibanez more than $300K were he to wait that long.
In January, Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote that Ibanez could very well be the next prospect to bust a team’s international bonus pool. While Ibanez’s signing bonus isn’t expected to approach the jaw-dropping record of countryman Yoan Moncada, Badler did note that Ibanez is a better prospect than Angels farmhand Roberto Baldoquin, who commanded an $8MM signing bonus this past offseason. In parts of three seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, the 5’11”, 185-pound Ibanez is a .283/.348/.419 hitter. Those numbers are a bit skewed by a rather mediocre age-18 rookie campaign, however, when Ibanez mustered just a .692 OPS. His OPS over the two subsequent seasons was north of .800.
Ibanez is said to have drawn interest from the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, Padres, D-Backs, Mariners and Brewers, with Sanchez listing the Yankees, Dodgers and Padres as the likeliest landing spots back in February. Clearly, much could have changed since that time. Sanchez also noted that he’s heard Ibanez compared to the likes of Omar Infante, Howie Kendrick, Placido Polanco and, perhaps less favorably, Miguel Cairo.
As for the others, less is known about their upside than that of Ibanez. However, Baseball-Reference’s recent addition of Cuban statistics to its offerings at least allows us to view their track records of performance in Cuba’s top league. The 25-year-old Miranda should be eligible to sign a contract of any amount based on his age and experience. He owns a lifetime 3.78 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 386 innings in Cuba. His best work came in his final season, the 2013-14 campaign, in which he posted a 3.24 ERA with an 80-to-28 K/BB ratio in 77 2/3 innings of work.
Jimenez, 23, lacks the necessary experience to be declared a professional under the international signing rules and is thereby subject to bonus pools. He’s a .270/.329/.326 hitter in parts of three seasons with little power or speed to speak of, based on his stats.
The 27-year-old Ricardo is exempt from spending limitations but comes with a fairly limited track record himself, it would seem. He’s batted .256/.320/.371 in parts of six Cuban seasons, averaging a homer every 52 plate appearances or so throughout his pro career. He held a showcase last July, and as MLBTR reported, about a dozen teams were present, including the Yankees, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Mariners, Astros, Royals, Rangers, Tigers, Athletics, and Reds.
Cuban catcher Lednier Ricardo recently held a workout in the Dominican Republic, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted recently. MLBTR has learned additional details on the 25-year-old, who has been cleared to sign as a free agent and will not be subject to international spending limits. About a dozen teams were represented at the showcase, including the Yankees, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Mariners, Astros, Royals, Rangers, Tigers, Athletics, and Reds. Public information is scarce on Ricardo, who has seen limited time with the Cuban national team and has maintained an OPS in the .730 range in recent years in Serie Nacional action. The backstop will look to impress scouts enough to earn a significant bonus to come stateside.
Here’s the latest out of the American League:
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe provides a few notes on the Red Sox, via Twitter, that could impact the team’s trade deadline plans. The club prefers to keep Koji Uehara for the 2015 campaign, he says, though of course the closer is slated to hit the open market. Meanwhile, the team would prefer to keep Xander Bogaerts at third for the present, but could nevertheless be open to dealing Stephen Drew if he can show some kind of turnaround at the plate.
- The Royals are “looking hard” at options to bolster their pen, Cafardo further reports (Twitter link). Though the Kansas City pen ranks third in the game in accumulated fWAR, much of that has come from top options Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera. And the relief corps rates just 19th in cumulative ERA (3.68). Among the Royals’ remaining active relievers, Aaron Crow and Francisley Bueno have outperformed their peripherals, Louis Coleman has struggled by any measure, and Scott Downs was knocked around yesterday after three quality outings to start his tenure with his second club of the season.
- The Rays will listen on catcher Jose Molina, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports on Twitter. Olney wonders whether the Cardinals would consider looking into the older brother of the injured Yadier Molina. It is worth bearing in mind, of course, the elder Molina is under contract for next season at $2.75MM.
- With few intriguing bats available, the Mariners should go all in by pursuing Rays ace David Price, argues Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Seattle should be able to fit Price’s salary this year and next, says Rosenthal, and the surely steep price in terms of prospects would be worth it to a club that could seize an opportunity to make a postseason run.