The Padres and 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Ona, who was recently declared a free agent by Major League Baseball, have agreed to a $7MM signing bonus, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). The Padres have long been considered the favorites to sign Ona, who will add yet another high-profile name to San Diego’s bounty of top-tier international talent in the 2016-17 international signing class.
Ona rated as the No. 8 international prospect on this year’s class, per Sanchez’s rankings at MLB.com. Sanchez wrote in his free scouting report that scouts are impressed by Ona’s ability to hit to all fields and his emerging power, noting that his batting practice sessions are a “sight to behold.” Baseball America’s Ben Badler wrote back in February that San Diego was the favorite to sign Ona. Per Badler, the right-handed hitter has a compact swing with good bat speed, plus power and an above-average arm that makes him best suited for right field. Badler didn’t rank Ona on his Top 50 list of international free agents for the 2016-17 signing class, as Ona wasn’t a free agent when the signing period began on July 2. He did, however, praise Ona a great deal when profiling the top players that had yet to leave Cuba last April — Ona left the island later that summer — noting that Ona had “all the attributes to be a star right fielder.” While he’s a ways from the Majors, Badler’s February report suggested that Ona could join a Class-A affiliate if he signed this season.
Ona is the second high-profile Cuban talent to be declared a free agent after the July 2 market opened and quickly sign with the Padres. San Diego already added 17-year-old left-hander Adrian Morejon for a reported bonus of $11MM, and the club also shelled out more than $12MM in signings on July 2 when the signing period kicked off. All told, they appear to have spent $30MM+ on international free agents to this point, proving reports that they planned to shatter their allotted bonus pool to be accurate. They’ll pay a 100 percent luxury tax on any amount that exceeds their $3.348MM pool, meaning Ona’s signing effectively cost the club $14MM. The cumulative sum of their spending on international free agents is already near or in excess of $60MM and could continue to grow between now and the close of the 2016-17 signing period on June 15 of next year.