The Astros have agreed to sign left-handed pitching prospect Cionel Perez for a $5.15MM signing bonus, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). The 20-year-old Perez, a client of Octagon according to Sanchez, was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball just last week after having left Cuba back in May of 2015. Due to his age and limited professional experience, Perez qualifies as an international amateur, meaning he is subject to international bonus pools. The Astros are already over their $2.197MM pool allotment, so the signing of Perez will come with a 100 percent luxury tax, thus making this a $10.3MM expenditure for Houston.
Perez currently rates fourth on Sanchez’s list of top 30 international prospects at MLB.com. Perez currently has a fastball that sits 92-95 mph, per Sanchez, though there’s room to add to his growing frame still, so some scouts feel the velocity will tick up another couple of miles per hour. Baseball America’s Ben Badler wrote back in December that Perez had shown some improvements with his once-fringe breaking pitch, which at the time was flashing the potential to be an average or better offering. He’s also added a changeup that he’s still working on since leaving Cuba.
Per Sanchez’s report, the Astros were joined by the Orioles, Padres and Reds in their pursuit of Perez, but it’ll be Houston who adds the intriguing young arm to its farm system. The aforementioned report from Badler noted that Perez could be ready for Low-A ball, but it’s of course possible that he begins his pro career in the United States a level higher now that he’s a year older — especially if he puts in some work over the winter. Perez appeared in just two seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, logging 139 innings with a 2.20 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in his age-17 and age-18 seasons.