Cardinals agree to deals with top international prospects

St. Louis reaches terms with Cuban hurler, No. 12 prospect, closing in on No. 10

Cardinals agree to deals with top international prospects

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals have been active in the international market for years, but never have they been as aggressive in procuring top talent from that pool as they were on Saturday.

On the first day of the international signing period, the Cardinals completed contracts with 13 players from four countries. Headlining the group of signees are Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Complete list of all Top 30 international prospect signings

According to industry sources, the club agreed to a $1.5 million deal with Garcia, a 16-year-old who is ranked No. 12 on MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospects list, and a $1.9 million deal with the 18-year-old Oviedo.

The Cardinals also have the framework in place on a $2.3 million signing bonus with outfielder Jonathan Machado, ranked No. 10. That deal, however, has not yet been finalized.

Others who agreed to deals include: outfielder Carlos Soler, 16, of the Dominican Republic; shortstop Franklin Soto, 16, of the Dominican Republic; catcher Carlos Soto, 17, of Mexico; right-hander Allinson Benitez, 16, of Venezuela; outfielder Diomedes Del Rio, 18, of Venezuela; outfielder Luis Montano, 16, of the Dominican Republic; shortstop Yowelfy Rosario, 16, of the Dominican Republic; outfielder Alexander Samuel, 16, of the Dominican Republic; right-hander Enmanuel Solano, 17, of the Dominican Republic; catcher Joyser Garcia, 16, of Venezuela; and right-hander Rodard Avelino, 17, of the Dominican Republic.

Sources told MLB.com that the Cardinals signed Carlos Soto for $400,000, Soler for $600,000 and Franklin Soto for $550,000.

"I think you anticipated us being aggressive. We weren't hiding from that," general manager John Mozeliak said on Monday. "Really, we saw it as an opportunity for two reasons. One, a lot of the bigger players that historically outbid you were out. And secondly, we don't know what the new rules may look like, so we thought from a strategic standpoint, it made sense."

The Cardinals, like many clubs, expect the rules regarding the international market to change this winter as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Overall, Garcia projects to be a run-producing, middle-of-the-lineup type of player, but like most international prospects his age, Garcia is working on his discipline at the plate and pitch recognition. He might have the most power in the entire class.

"Garcia has a high offensive ceiling with run-producing potential at a corner outfield position," said Moises Rodriguez, director of international operations for the Cardinals. "He possesses a strong combination of hitting ability and future power."

The 6-foot-6 Oviedo throws a low-to-mid 90s fastball with a good breaking ball and plus makeup.

"Oviedo has a plus fastball and a three-pitch mix," Rodriguez said. "He projects as a top-of-the-rotation starter who has an excellent chance to flourish within our system."

The speedy Machado has an aggressive approach at the plate and has added mass to his frame since he left Cuba last year. He profiles as a leadoff hitter and has been clocked at 6 1/2 seconds in the 60-yard dash.

Oviedo, Carlos Soto, Solano and Del Rio have been assigned to the Cardinals' 2016 Dominican Summer League team. All of the other signees will begin their professional playing careers next year.

In accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team is allotted a $700,000 base and a bonus pool with four slot values based on the team's record in 2015 for the international signing period, which started on Saturday. The Cardinals' overall pool total for this year's signing period is $2,027,300, which means the signings will put them into the penalty.

Here's how it works: Teams that exceed the pools by 0 to 5 percent have to pay 100 percent tax, and teams that exceed the pools by 5 to 10 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $500,000 during the next signing period, and also have to pay a 100-percent tax on the pool overage. Teams that exceed the pools by 10 to 15 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next signing period, and have to pay a 100-percent tax on the pool overage.

In the most severe penalty, teams that exceed the pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods, in addition to paying a 100-percent tax on the pool overage.

Based on their signings thus far, the Cardinals fall in that latter category. It may not matter, of course, if the rules change ahead of next year's July 2 signing period.

"I think the international market as a whole is always something that if you're opportunistic, you have opportunities," Mozeliak said. "As we looked at things as early as August last year and what this might look like, we decided it made sense as something we should try to do. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.