As of today, 21-year-old Cuban shortstop Yolbert Sanchez is formally cleared to sign with Major League clubs. Sanchez, who recently left Cuba and has since been living and working out in the Dominican Republic, emerged as the most touted talent on the international free-agent market in late January when it was first reported that he’d be cleared to sign on this day.
At present, the Orioles and their near-$6MM signing pool are the runaway leaders in terms of pool money available. The Dodgers’ $1.4MM remaining pool is the next largest, though teams are still allowed to trade international funds between now and the close of the current signing period on June 15.
According to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, the Orioles recently sent new general manager Mike Elias and a contingent of evaluators to the Dominican Republic to scout the newly available shortstop. The O’s aren’t the only ones who’ve seen him, however, as the report also indicates that Rangers president of baseball ops Jon Daniels and Astros president of baseball ops Jeff Luhnow were both in the Dominican Republic recently to scout Sanchez in person. Houston can’t offer Sanchez more than $300K until the next signing period begins on July 2, though Texas can trade for additional funds on top of the $850K the organization currently has in its pool.
The point regarding the next signing period is a key distinction, particularly given that Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen tweeted today that Sanchez’s camp has told interested teams that one club has already put forth an offer of $2MM if he’s willing to wait until the 2019-20 signing period begins. That could be a negotiation tactic, though it’s common for teams to have verbal agreements with international free agents in place well in advance of the signing period’s commencement, and Sanchez is surely a know commodity to other clubs throughout the league.
Sanchez isn’t necessarily considered an elite prospect, but he’ll turn 22 in March and, as such, could be closer to the Majors than most amateurs available in international free agency. Longenhagen and colleague Kiley McDaniel wrote at the time they reported Sanchez’s impending availability to MLB clubs that his glove, speed and throwing arm all draw above-average to plus ratings from scouts. His offensive upside, however, is not as universally agreed upon.
Sanchez appeared in 128 appeared across parts of three seasons in the Cuban National Series before leaving the island in 2018 and batted a combined .297/.338/.345 through 435 plate appearances. Sanchez homered just once in that span, although the majority of his plate appearances came as a teenager and he struck out at just an 8.7 percent clip.