DETROIT -- The Tigers dipped into the Cuban end of the international market, signing shortstop Leonardo Laffita to a pro contract.
The deal, first reported on the Pelota Cubana baseball blog and later by Baseball America, includes a reported $250,000 bonus that will count against the Tigers' international signing pool for the signing period that began last July. The club hasn't confirmed the transaction.
Though the Tigers have been involved with high-profile Cuban players in recent years, including Yoenis Cespedes and Rusney Castillo, Laffita is the first significant signing the Tigers have made out of the market. Laffita was part of the International Prospect League showcase last winter along with Hector Olivera and Yadier Alvarez. While Olivera and Alvarez signed, Laffita lingered on the market before getting back to game action to help prove himself. The Tigers, with room left under their international signing budget, took a chance on the late signing.
The 24-year-old Laffita spent a late-summer stint in the Mexican League, playing 23 games for Vaqueros Laguna. The right-handed hitter batted .280 (14-for-50) with two doubles, a triple and four RBIs, stealing three bases in as many tries. He also drew three walks with six strikeouts.
Laffita showed rust defensively, committing eight errors in 79 total chances at short. He had much better numbers as a second baseman in the Cuban National Series in 2011 and 2012. The Tigers are expected to start out Laffita at shortstop, either at Class A Advanced Lakeland or Double-A Erie, but his versatility could lead to a position change.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.