4:25pm: MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports that Gutierrez will begin working out for teams next month, adding that his market likely won’t begin to take shape until that happens.
4:09pm: Major league baseball has declared Cuban righty Vladimir Gutierrez a free agent, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports. He has been seeking to become eligible to sign since defecting in February.
Badler notes on Twitter that a number of scouts prefer Gutierrez’s total package to that of Yadier Alvarez, who just agreed to a $16MM bonus with the Dodgers. (That signing will require the Dodgers to also pay a 100% tax on that amount.) Like his countryman, Gutierrez will be subject to the international signing limits.
Whereas Alvarez offers big-time present-day stuff that needs polishing, Gutierrez possesses much better present command of his offerings with upside through projection. Per Badler, the 19-year-old is “long” and “lanky,” and there’s reason to believe that he can build on a low-90s fastball. Gutierrez’s primary off-speed pitch is a plus curve, though he’s also shown a change that could be a useful offering, as Badler wrote last year.
Because he falls within the bonus rules, Gutierrez cannot be signed (at least, to a $300K or greater bonus) by clubs currently serving overage bans: namely, the Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees. The Braves can likely be ruled out as a destination as well. Atlanta has acquired an extra ~$1.3MM of bonus money, but that has been in an effort to avoid incurring future signing restrictions upon finalizing three already-reported high-profile international signings. Were the team prepared to go well beyond its spending pool, the trades to acquire international slots wouldn’t have been necessary in the first place.
With several teams carefully moving international bonus slots around to avoid future penalties, it seems at least plausible to think that Gutierrez will end up signing with a team that has already blown past its spending limits this year — particularly, of course, if he can command a bonus anything like that given to Alvarez. The Dodgers, Cubs, Giants and Royals are among the teams that currently stand to take on two-year bans on $300K+ signings.