Cuban left-hander Osvaldo Hernandez has been declared a free agent and can now sign with any team, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (via Twitter). Several teams are already interested in the 18-year-old southpaw, including the Astros, Braves, Mets, Padres, Rangers, Reds and Red Sox.
Due to Hernandez’s young age, his signing is subject to international bonus pools. (As a reminder of how the international signing system has been altered by the new collective bargaining agreement, check out this refresher from Baseball America’s Ben Badler). One factor that hasn’t changed is that teams who exceeded their international spending limits in the last two July 2 classes are still serving their previously-mandated penalties, i.e. limited to spending no more than $300K on any pool-eligible player. By waiting until this July 2 to sign, Hernandez could open his market up to teams like the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Angels, Rays, Yankees and Red Sox, as those six clubs would no longer be held to the $300K limit. Boston, it should be noted, can’t sign Hernandez at all until July 2 since the Sox were banned from signing any pool-eligible players whatsoever during this signing class.
With significant interest in Hernandez’s services already, however, the young southpaw may not feel the need to wait. Also, since the old CBA’s rules are still in effect until the 2017-18 international signing period begins, Hernandez probably stands a better chance of scoring a richer contract now than he will when the stricter pool rules are instituted after July 2. Of the teams connected to Hernandez already, the Braves, Astros, Reds and Padres have already surpassed their bonus pools for the 2016-17 international signing period, so they would be paying a 100 percent tax on Hernandez’s signing bonus if a deal was reached.
Hernandez didn’t appear on any of the top prospects lists from Baseball America, Fangraphs or MLB.com for the current international signing period, though BA’s list didn’t include players who weren’t already eligible to sign. The 18-year-old does already possess a fastball clocked between 92-94mph, according to Sanchez.