The Arizona Diamondbacks made a big splash on the international free agent market on Tuesday, signing Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez to a deal that includes a record-breaking $8.27 million bonus, as first reported by Baseball America's Ben Badler and MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez. Sanchez also adds that Lopez turned down a $9 million bonus offer elsewhere to sign with Arizona, where he sees an easier path to the big leagues. The 21-year-old also received "serious interest" from the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers.
At age 21, Lopez is still subject to the international bonus pool rules that make his deal of the minor league variety, though he will receive an invite to big league Spring Training. While the deal is still pending a physical, it seems likely to top Roberto Baldoquin's record set earlier this month for the highest bonus ever received by a player subject to bonus pool rules.
Per Badler, Lopez possesses a fastball that touches the mid-90's, to go along with a projectable 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame. During his last season in Cuba's Serie Nacional, Lopez posted a 3.12 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 11 walks in 49 innings pitched. Badler expects Lopez to start out in A-ball.
Scouts' opinions seem to vary on Lopez, with Fangraphs' Kiley McDaniel mentioning that some have compared him favorably to mid-first rounders from this past June's draft, while others see less potential, with a likely future in the bullpen.
Of course, the Diamondbacks are quite high on Lopez, as general manager Dave Stewart tells The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro that the club feels "that he's capable of competing right now for a spot in [their] rotation." Stewart also regards Lopez as a potential first overall pick kind of talent, noting that "with [the Diamondbacks] also having the first pick in the draft, it's [now] almost like [they] get two first picks."
For the Diamondbacks, there are some negative ramifications for their expenditure. Since Lopez's bonus handily exceeds Arizona's pool allotment, the club will now be forced to pay a 100% overage on the amount they have gone over the pool, while also losing the right to give out any bonuses worth more than $300,000 over the next two July 2 signing periods. The D-backs are already set to have baseball's highest bonus pool next period, and with the team likely headed for another losing season, they could be forfeiting a pair of potentially fruitful signing periods.