TODAY, 2:50pm: Lazarito and his agents are willing to consider offers that would involve waiting until the next signing period to sign, Sanchez tweets. Certainly, that would appear to open up his potential market to more teams and explain the involvement of so many organizations as he nears a decision.
1:10pm: There are nine total teams “heavily involved” in pursuit of Lazarito, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). It’s still unclear precisely which teams are pursuing him beyond the Braves, though the clubs already in the max penalty are certainly a good place to start.
Of course, it’s also not yet entirely apparent what kind of cash outlay and signing timing those unnamed teams would be willing to offer. Paying a significant bonus and tax bill while taking on a two-year signing ban is a big ask at this stage of the year, with camp approaching and the next year’s July 2 prospect period already having developed quite a bit.
YESTERDAY: The Braves are among the teams expected to make a strong push for young Cuban prospect Lazaro Armenteros — better known as Lazarito — according to a report from MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. He’ll be eligible to sign on February 10 after being declared a free agent by the league, and Atlanta will see him at a private workout on Saturday.
At just 16 years of age, Lazarito is subject to international signing restrictions. Though he is a raw talent, Sanchez says he’s expected to command a bonus in the range of $15MM to $20MM, if not more.
Clearly, anything close to that would push Atlanta (or any other team) well over its bonus allotment if the signing were to be completed in this July 2 period. Such a move would trigger a two-year ban on $300K+ international signings and a 100% tax on overages.
With the Braves reportedly lining up a massive spend on the signing season set to begin this summer — much-hyped Venezuelan Kevin Maitan is rumored to be the crown jewel — the club would have to do some maneuvering to get things done. Signing Lazarito now would mean punting on the opportunity to add multiple players in the July 2 session to come, though of course it could pursue other additions in this year’s period as numerous Cuban prospects filter into the free agent pool. Alternatively, Atlanta could attempt to convince the prospect and his representatives to hold off on officially striking a deal until the summer, thus rolling the signing into its future international class.
There are other teams involved, Sanchez suggests, though it isn’t clear who else is in pursuit. As he notes, the Dodgers, Giants, Cubs, and Royals stand to begin their own restricted stretches in a few months’ time. Having already triggered the maximum penalties, they could all strike without issue (beyond coughing up the bonus and tax). Only the Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees are frozen out of the market, by virtue of prior budget-busting outlays. The rest of the league would find itself in the same situation as Atlanta — able to spend, if they are willing to sit out the next two signing periods.