The Astros and young Cuban left-hander Cionel Perez have agreed to a new deal that comes with a $2MM signing bonus, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). Houston and Perez had originally agreed to a $5.15MM signing bonus back in September, but in October it was reported by Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and ESPN’s Keith Law that the deal had been voided for medical reasons. The precise medical problem that derailed the first deal remains unclear.
The new arrangement comes with less financial risk for Astros, who in addition to the bonus figure are also on the hook for a 100 percent luxury tax due to the fact that they’d already exceeded their 2016-17 international bonus pool. As such, Perez drops from a $10.3MM total expenditure to a $4MM total expenditure for the Astros, who clearly are intrigued by Perez’s talent despite some apparent physical red flags.
Perez, 21 next April, ranks fourth on Sanchez’s list of top 30 international prospects at MLB.com. He’s undersized, though Sanchez notes that he still has room to add to his 5’11”, 170-pound frame. Perez already features a fastball in the 92-95mph range, and that velocity could tick upward a bit as he continues to grow. Perez also shows good feel for a slider and changeup, Sanchez continues. Longenhagen offered similarly high praise for Perez at Fangraphs, rating him seventh among international prospects. While Longenhagen’s report is down a bit more on Perez’s slider, he also notes that Perez flashes a potentially plus curveball. At the time of Perez’s original signing, Baseball America’s Ben Badler wrote that the changeup was a fairly new pitch for Perez, who has only added it since leaving Cuba. His slider has improved since leaving Cuba as well, Badler notes.
Perez spent just two seasons playing in the Cuban National Series, logging a 2.20 ERA while pitching as a professional at ages 17 and 18. He totaled 139 innings with 100 strikeouts against 61 walks, although 13 of those free passes were issued intentionally. Perez should be ticketed for the lower levels of the minor leagues to begin his pro career in the United States.