The Rays have signed Cuban outfielder Dayron Varona to a Minor League contract, reports Baseball America’s Ben Badler. The signing bonus on the deal for the 27-year-old isn’t known at this time, though ESPN’s Keith Law recently wrote in a scouting report that he expected Varona to receive an eight-figure bonus when he eventually signed. Badler notes that Varona’s bonus isn’t believed to be a “high-level investment.”
Varona has been working out for clubs since January, and Badler shares Law’s view that his best tools are his defensive capabilities. Badler notes that Varona has above-average speed and enough arm strength to play all three outfield spots. In the above report from Law, he notes that while he didn’t personally see Varona cover enough ground to definitively say that he could handle center field, his speed seems to indicate that he can do just that. Law says that Varona’s arm is strong with a quick release, grading it at least a 60, if not a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
As Badler notes, Varona does not yet have his visa, so he must first obtain that before jumping into the Rays’ Minor League ranks. Some scouts have pegged him as Triple-A depth, per Badler, while others feel that he can be a viable fourth outfielder at the Major League level. One would assume the Rays, of course, fall into the latter camp. In seven seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, Varona is a .312/.376/.470 hitter that has averaged a homer ever 39.5 plate appearances.
The Rays have already exceeded their 2014-15 international signing pool, so this move continues an aggressive push on the international market. While Tampa is already in the maximum penalty bracket, they will not owe any penalties on Varona because he is exempt from the international spending limits.