Highly touted Cuban outfielder Lazaro Armenteros (aka “Lazarito”) will spend the next 24 hours mulling his options and is expected to decide on a team tomorrow, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Lazaro himself told Sanchez recently that he hoped to make a decision tomorrow, though he left open the possibility that the decision process could take longer. “I’m planning on making a decision on [Wednesday], but only God knows what will happen and when I will sign,” Armenteros said to Sanchez. “I’m not worried about it. I’m just waiting on the right opportunity.” The ballyhooed 16-year-old is drawing serious interest from nine clubs, according to Sanchez, including the Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, Padres and Phillies.
Of that group, the Braves, Phillies and Padres would need to either exceed their 2015-16 international bonus pool in order to sign Lazarito or convince him to wait until the 2016-17 international signing period before signing. Both the Braves and Padres have been said to be planning on vastly overshooting their 2016-17 international pools, and Sanchez notes that the Phillies are in a similar boat, as they’re expected to have an impressive class of international signings next period as well. Signing Lazarito in the current period would prevent any of those three clubs from following through on those plans, as his bonus would force the teams into penalty territory and bar them from signing a player for more than $300K in the 2016-17 class (and again in the 2017-18 class, for that matter). Each team almost certainly has verbal agreements already in place with international amateurs, which would have to be broken in order to sign Armenteros.
Thus far in the 2015-16 signing period, the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Royals have incurred maximum penalties by overshooting their pools, meaning that the only cost to one of those four clubs would be purely financial. (Armenteros’ bonus plus a 100 percent luxury tax on the amount for which he signs.) Meanwhile, the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, Diamondbacks and Rays would all be ineligible to sign Armenteros after exceeding their 2014-15 bonus pools and incurring spending penalties on this year’s class and the 2016-17 class of international free agents.
Armenteros was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball a little over a month ago and has since hosted an open showcase in addition to private workouts for multiple clubs, the most recent of which came on Monday, per Sanchez (though he lists the team involved in that private workout as “undisclosed”). Armenteros has worked out as both a center fielder and corner outfielder, drawing praise for his power, speed and athleticism. Sanchez ranks him eighth among international prospects and second among those that have not already signed, although the current iteration of his rankings does not include the Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (who has not yet been declared a free agent) or any international free agent that is exempt from international bonus pools. In his scouting reports, Sanchez notes that there’s a wide variance in scouts’ opinions on Lazarito’s arm, and some scouts have questioned how his “muscular college-football-player body” will look as he continues to grow. Armenteros is already listed at 6’2″ and 205 pounds, and if he continues to add to that frame, a move to the corner outfield certainly seems like a reasonable outcome.