Yenier Bello Rumors
MONDAY: Bello received a $400K signing bonus and an invite to big league Spring Training, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes (Twitter link).
SATURDAY: The Braves are completing a minor league deal with Cuban catcher Yenier Bello, an industry source tells Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The contract includes a signing bonus and a Spring Training invitation.
Bello has reportedly drawn interest from as many as 20 MLB clubs. Terms of the agreement aren't yet known, but the 29-year-old wasn't expected to command a contract in the same range as recent Cuban signees such as Jose Dariel Abreu and Yasiel Puig. Bello is older than 23 and has more than three years of pro experience, so he won't count against the Braves' international spending limit.
In Cuba's Serie Nacional in 2011, Bello hit .274 and slugged 13 homers over the season's 90-game schedule, so he's expected to bring some power to the backstop position. Sanchez writes that he's likely to begin the season in the minor leagues, however. Evan Gattis currently projects as the starting catcher for the Braves, who also have Gerald Laird under contract for 2014.
The Rays and Athletics have done the most this offseason to solidify themselves as top teams, New York Daily News' Bill Madden writes. The Rays addressed all their major needs by re-signing James Loney and adding Grant Balfour and Ryan Hanigan. The Athletics replaced Balfour with Jim Johnson and Bartolo Colon with Scott Kazmir, and they further improved their bullpen with the additions of Luke Gregerson and Eric O'Flaherty. The Yankees also added plenty of talent, Madden notes, but they still have serious issues in their infield. Here are more notes from around baseball.
- The Padres, Braves and Mets are among the teams interested in Cuban catcher Yenier Bello, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez tweets. As MLBTR's Steve Adams recently noted, it's unclear what it might take to sign Bello, but he is not as highly-regarded a prospect as players like Jose Dariel Abreu and Yasiel Puig. Sanchez had previously connected Bello to the Dodgers, Cubs and Blue Jays.
- The Diamondbacks have interest in Cuban pitchers Odrisamer Despaigne and Raciel Iglesias, Sanchez tweets. Despaigne was recently cleared to sign with an MLB team.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo says he does not expect to give extensions to arbitration-eligible pitchers Doug Fister and Tyler Clippard, MLB.com's Bill Ladson tweets.
- The Nats were briefly connected to free-agent closer Grant Balfour before Balfour signed by the Rays, and they probably would have traded Drew Storen if they'd managed to sign Balfour. But Storen isn't bothered by that idea, Ladson writes. "You don’t take it personally, it part of it. It’s flattering that other teams want you, too," says Storen. "You look at it from all angles. [The Nationals] are a great team. Obviously, I don’t want to go anywhere. It’s just part of the business. Nothing new."
Cuban catcher Yenier Bello has been cleared by the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and is now free to sign with a Major League club, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.
The 28-year-old Bello was cleared to sign by Major League Baseball back on Oct. 1 and has been scouted by as many as 15-20 Major League teams. Sanchez lists the Dodgers, Cubs and Blue Jays as teams that have been connected to Bello, who is said to offer some pop from behind the dish. He batted .274 with 13 homers in Cuba's Serie Nacional in 2011 -- a league in which the regular season is just 90 games long.
It's unclear what type of commitment it would take for a team to land Bello, but doesn't appear to be on the same prospect level as recent Cuban signees Jose Dariel Abreu, Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Aroldis Chapman. Because he is older than 23 and has more than three years of professional experience, Bello will not be subject to the international spending limitations laid out in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement; Bello can sign with any team for any amount. Now that he's been cleared to sign, I've added Bello's name to our 2014 Free Agent list.
Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball are still trying to come to an agreement on changes to the posting system for Japanese players, but that agreement could be "several weeks away," writes George A. King III of the New York Post. Under the previous system, Japanese teams could've begun posting players on Nov. 1, making the restructuring a significantly negative impact for teams targeting Rakuten ace Masahiro Tanaka this winter. With Tanaka expected to command such a large financial commitment, teams stand to benefit from knowing sooner rather than later whether or not they have a chance to land him. Here are a few more notes from the international market...
- Independent league right-hander Hideyoshi Ohtake has a tryout with the Red Sox, according to a report from Yahoo Japan passed along by Patrick Newman of NPBTracker (via Twitter). Ohtake's fastball reaches 94 mph on the radar gun.
- Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports that 15-20 teams scouted Cuban catcher Yenier Bello's showcase earlier this week. Bello took batting practice and gave teams a glimpse of his work behind the plate, including making throws to second base and third base.
- Also at that showcase, writes Nicholson-Smith, were right-hander Rogelio Armenteros and first baseman Jozzen Cuesta. Armenteros threw for scouts and topped 90 mph with his heater. The pair of Cuban prospects is represented by the Wasserman Media Group.
- Side-armer Shunsuke Watanabe is going to try to make the jump to Major League Baseball at age 37, according to an Asahi report passed on by NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman. Watanbe's delivery is one of the lowest to the ground in pro baseball, Newman notes (his second tweet includes a video), but his pitches top out around 70 mph (Twitter links). Watanabe has spent 13 season with NPB's Chiba Lotte Marines, totaling a 3.65 ERA with 4.8 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. Despite his unorthodox delivery, he's spent nearly his entire career as a starting pitcher.
With free agency underway, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reached out to 40 Major League Baseball executives and agents to gauge the markets for both pitchers and hitters. Here are just some of the highlights from each well-crafted analysis constructed by my former MLBTR colleague...
- Brian McCann hasn't ruled out a return to the Braves, despite the fact that most pundits are projecting him to sign with an American League team on a contract that's far too expensive for Atlanta's liking. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes profiled McCann in September and predicted a five-year, $80MM deal.
- Many executives and agents that spoke to Nicholson-Smith doubt that Robinson Cano actually has a chance at reaching the $300MM mark that he and agent Brodie Van Wagenen suggested last month.
- Cuban catcher Yenier Bello is expected to work out for big league teams on Nov. 5 in Tijuana, Mexico. The powerful 28-year-old hasn't yet been cleared by the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), though MLB cleared him a month ago.
- While we've heard several scouts predict that Masahiro Tanaka won't live up to the ace standards set by Yu Darvish, Nicholson-Smith found that there are several teams that do view Tanaka as a potential ace/top-of-the-rotation starter.
- Tim Hudson's agent, Paul Cohen of TWC Sports, told Nicholson-Smith that his client wants to play for two or three more seasons and is interested in signing a multiyear contract this winter. I profiled Hudson last month, projecting a one-year, $9MM contract, but noted that some teams may be interested at two years.
- Johan Santana wants to return to the Majors and recently began throwing. The two-time AL Cy Young winner didn't pitch in 2013, but he should be able to generate interest as a high-upside signing that comes with little risk.
- Javier Lopez is seeking a multiyear deal this winter after another strong season with the Giants, and Nicholson-Smith gets the sense that there are many non-closing relievers eyeing multiyear deals. He spoke to some executives who feel that left-handed relief is one of the strengths of this year's market.
Yenier Bello was caught trying to escape Cuba around this time last year and wound up being suspended from baseball in his native country. Now, Bello has successfully fled the country and is in the process of being cleared to sign with a big league team, agent Bryce Dixon of Primo Sports Group told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.
Multiple teams have already expressed interest in the backstop, but he still needs to be unblocked by the United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before negotiating an agreement and that could take several months to get done. Regardless, teams are anxious to see the power hitter and he is expected to audition for major league clubs in Mexico or Arizona at some point.
Bello, 28, hit .274 with 13 homers playing in Cuba’s Serie Nacional in 2011. BN-S notes that the Phillies, Mariners, and Blue Jays are among the clubs expected to consider offseason catching upgrades.