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In what might be the most eclectic collection of names to ever headline a division notes post, here's the latest from the AL Central…
- Despite the Tigers' late-game problems this season, Dave Dombrowski has no regrets over not acquiring a proven closer last winter, the general manager tells MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. "We didn't feel there was a lock-down, shut-down option in the wintertime that fit in with what we were trying to do, role-wise and financially," Dombrowski said. "Other people may think differently, but there weren't a lot of guys out there, and we felt we had options internally. Now, it may have taken some time, but we still have a chance to do that."
- Joaquin Benoit has recently taken over the closer's role in Detroit and pitched well, which could erase any plans the Tigers had to acquire a stopper at the deadline. "Where are you going to go out and get a guy with better stuff than Benoit?" Dombrowski said.
- Marten Gasparini, the 16-year-old Italian prospect who signed a $1.3MM contract with the Royals, spoke to Fangraphs' David Laurila about his transition to North America.
- The Twins haven't asked agent Jaime Torres about the location of Cuban right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne's showcase in Barcelona tomorrow, 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter link). Wolfson notes in a follow-up tweet that this just means the Twins haven't informed Torres, not that they won't attend altogether, and Wolfson says the Twins "have a book" on Despaigne.
- Byron Buxton holds the top spot on Baseball America's midseason ranking of the top 50 prospects in the sport. The Twins outfielder "is even better than expected with power, speed, defense and an extremely advanced hitting approach," states BA's staff report. Buxton was ranked as the No. 10 prospect in Baseball America's preseason rankings but has risen to No. 1 after hitting .344/.424/.548 with nine homers and 33 steals in 366 PA at the low and high-A levels this season.
- In AL Central news from earlier today, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported that Twins right-hander P.J. Walters had cleared outright assignment waivers.
4:30pm: The Royals have also signed Venezuelan outfielder Cristhian Vasquez for a $775K bonus, according to Sanchez (on Twitter). Vasquez ranked as Baseball America's No. 22 prospect, noting that he's one of the oldest players in this year's class and has an advanced offensive approach.
10:12am: The Royals signed Italian shortstop Marten Gasparini for $1.3MM today, breaking the record for a European international prospect, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez. Baseball America ranked Gasparini 12th; MLB.com had him fourth.
Badler had a full profile of Gasparini in May, noting the Royals as the frontrunner and his likelihood of breaking the European record. Gasparini, who turned 16 on May 24th, is a speedy switch-hitter with an Italian father and Jamaican mother who grew up in London.
The Royals have a bonus pool of $2,988,100 this year.
We're a day away from the kickoff of this year's international free agency period. Starting tomorrow, teams will be able to sign amateur free agents, many of whom will be just 16 years of age. Baseball America's Ben Badler reported each team's bonus pool back in April. The Astros ($4.93MM) have the most to spend while the Nationals ($1.85MM) have the least. Here's more on what to expect in this year's signing period…
- Badler provides his list of Top 30 international prospects to the public for free, though subscribers can access full scouting reports on each of his Top 30. Dominican outfielder Eloy Jimenez tops Badler's list.
- Jimenez also heads the Top 30 list compiled by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, though the two sets of rankings are quite different otherwise. For example, Mayo's No. 4 prospect — Dominican outfielder Wasner Peguero – does not appear on Badler's list at all.
- Mayo's colleague at MLB.com, Jesse Sanchez, provides an in-depth profile of Jimenez. The 16-year-old tells Sanchez that he wants to be like his idol, Roberto Clemente. Sanchez writes that scouts praise Jimenez's speed, gap-to-gap power (which is expected to grow), quick hands and baseball intelligence. He's expected to end up in a corner outfield position. Jimenez tells Sanchez that July 2 is a day on which "dreams come true."
- Sanchez also notes (Twitter link) that there's more to signing international free agents than just money. One current top prospect is deciding between two teams based on their GMs and how they have treated past international signees.
- The Twins are expected to sign Dominican outfielder Lewin Diaz, writes LaVelle E. Neal of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Minnesota is also very interested in Dominican right-hander Mayky Perez. They have interest in Italian infielder Marten Gasparini, but aren't likely to bid as highly as some other teams might. The Twins, for what it's worth, are the current record holders for largest bonus ever given to a European amateur. German outfielder Max Kepler received an $800K signing bonus in 2009.
- In a subscription-only piece, Badler explains that general managers are having a hard time valuing bonus money in trades. The new CBA allows teams to exchange money from their international bonus pools, but the difficulty in trade talks is creating dilemmas for teams who have already given players or agents the impression that they will be able to commit a certain amount of money on July 2. Once a team uses all of its spending pool, it cannot trade for additional funds; trades must be completed prior to the exhaustion of a team's pool.
With 40% of their innings coming from relievers, the Pirates' bullpen has been worked the hardest among all National League teams. The onus is on GM Neal Huntington to add depth at the trade deadline, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, who notes that the NL Central is "tougher than many of us expected" due to the Pirates playing .591 ball so far. Elsewhere in baseball's central divisions…
- The Royals are the frontrunner to sign 15-year-old Italian shortstop Marten Gasparini, sources tell Ben Badler of Baseball America, with the Dodgers and Cubs also showing interest. Gasparini, who turns 16 on Friday, is "expected to sign the biggest contract ever for a European amateur player," according to Badler. The speedy switch-hitter may top the $800K the Twins gave to German outfielder Max Kepler in 2009. Be sure to check out Badler's full profile of Gasparini.
- Josh Vitters is the future at third base for the Cubs, president Theo Epstein told Ian Stewart, Stewart explained to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. That means playing time will be hard to come by for Stewart at Triple-A Iowa, where he landed after being removed from the Cubs' 40-man roster this month. Stewart wondered if the comment was Epstein's way of trying to get him to give up his contract, but the third baseman told Muskat, "It wouldn't really make sense for me to take a release or ask for free agency, because then I'd be giving up my contract, and that doesn't make sense for me financially or for my family." Stewart signed a $2MM deal to remain with the Cubs after being non-tendered in December, and hoped to be with the big league club after rehabbing a February quad injury.
- Matt Garza will make his season debut tomorrow with the Cubs in Pittsburgh, and he's eligible for free agency after the season. Jesse Rogers and Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com discussed Garza's future, with Levine suggesting, "I believe if he stays healthy the Cubs will offer him a short-term extension that could be a plus for both sides."
- The Twins "will get a close approximation of what it would be like to have Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in the same lineup" when top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano reach their primes, writes Jim Callis of Baseball America. Asked to rank prospect tandems in terms of potential five years down the road, Callis ranked Buxton and Sano ahead of Oscar Taveras and Shelby Miller of the Cardinals, Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich of the Marlins, and Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado of the Orioles, among others.