SEPTEMBER 7: The signing is now official, per C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter).
AUGUST 30: The Reds have agreed to sign highly regarded right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez for a bonus of $4.75MM, reports Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald (via Twitter). The 20-year-old Cuban righty will count against Cincinnati’s international bonus pool, which they’ve already vastly exceeded with their $7MM deal with Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez. As such, Gutierrez will come with a 100 percent luxury tax, effectively making this a $9.5MM expenditure for the Reds.
At last check, earlier this month, Gutierrez’s camp was weighing a number of options, including pitching in Japan and waiting until next year’s international signing period to embark on his minor league career. However, he’ll now add a well-regarded arm to a rebuilding Reds system, joining countryman and defensive standout Rodriguez as a co-headliner of Cincinnati’s international signings this period.
Gutierrez was initially cleared as a free agent last summer, but some lackluster showings in front of big league scouts caused his stock to dip over the winter. That, however, changed at a mid-March showcase, per Baseball America’s Ben Badler, when Gutierrez’s strong showing restored a good deal of his prospect status. Badler has since written that Gutierrez’s heater checks in at 92-94 mph and pairs nicely with a “hammer” curve around 80 mph, though he needs further refinement in terms of fastball command and a third pitch. Following that up, Badler tweeted just today that Gutierrez has recently been up to 97 mph with his fastball while also showing a plus curve. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez rated Gutierrez fourth behind Kevin Maitan, Adrian Morejon and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on his ranking of the 2016-17 international free agents, noting that while he projects as a starting pitcher, some scouts also believe he could have a quicker timeline to the Majors and make an impact as a high-leverage late-inning reliever as well.
Cincinnati, of course, has had its share of success in dipping into the Cuban market for high-upside arms, enjoying success with the likes of Aroldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias. However, both Chapman and Iglesias signed at a considerably later stage in their careers. Gutierrez will have a lengthier path to the Majors and will be subject to the standard pre-arbitration pay scale and six full seasons of control for the Reds upon reaching the big leagues. His numbers in a brief Serie Nacional career in Cuba were solid, albeit not overwhelming; in 118 1/3 innings, Gutierrez logged a 3.27 ERA with 7.1 K/9 against 4.5 BB/9. Of course, he’s come quite a ways in his development since that time, as his last work in Cuba’s top league came when he was still just 18 years of age.