11:58am: MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (via Twitter) that it’s a minor league deal for Mendoza, who will receive a $500K signing bonus. As previously noted, that doesn’t come with a luxury tax since Mendoza is exempt from bonus pools, making his addition is a relatively low-cost pick up for St. Louis.
9:37am: The Cardinals announced that they’ve agreed to terms with 23-year-old right-hander Hector Mendoza. The Cuban native, who is being represented by Wasserman, was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball back in January and is reportedly exempt from international bonus pools. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, though his exemption means that the Cards were free to sign him to a Major League contract.
Though Mendoza falls shy of the requisite five years of pro experience in Cuba that MLB requires for bonus pool exemption, El Nuevo Herald’s Jorge Ebro reported in January that the league determined that Mendoza can be considered a professional rather than an amateur due to brief stints in Japan across parts of two separate seasons (combined with his four years in Cuba).
Baseball America’s Ben Badler connected the Cardinals to Mendoza over the weekend (subscription required and strongly recommended), noting that while he once was one of the more promising young arms on Cuba, he’s struggled Japan and had durability issues in Cuba. Per Badler, Mendoza has a three-pitch starter’s repertoire, including a 94 mph fastball, when he’s at his best. However, scouts who’ve seen him recently offer mixed reports and peg him as a potential reliever. Badler suggests that he’s currently ready to pitch at Class-A Advanced or Double-A. That could conceivably make him an option for the Redbirds later this season, depending on how quickly he’s able to join a minor league affiliate and how he fares once he returns to competitive ball.
In parts of six professional seasons between the Cuban National Series and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, Mendoza has a 2.95 ERA with 6.6 K/9 against 5.3 BB/9. Control issues seem to have always been a problem for the righty, based on his yearly walk rates, but he’s also consistently managed to post solid ERAs and did have a successful run as the closer for Cuba’s Isla de la Juventud in the 2013-14 campaign.