The Chicago White Sox continued to corner the market on talented young Cubans, agreeing with 19-year-old Dayan Viciedo to a record-setting contract Thursday night.
Viciedo’s four-year, $11 million major-league deal guarantees him more money than anyone signed out of the June draft or any player under 21 signed as an international free agent. Mark Prior's $10.5 million bonus set the record for a college player, Detroit's Rick Porcello received a $7.28 million major-league deal out of high school two years ago and Oakland gave 16-year-old Dominican Michel Inoa $4.25 million this year.
One year after signing another Cuban defector, Alexei Ramirez, to a four-year deal and watching him finish second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting last season, the White Sox promised Viciedo a shot at their third-base job despite him never taking a professional at-bat outside his home country.
"He'll have to earn it, and I expect him to give a good fight for that position," said Jaime Torres, Viciedo's agent. "If I were a betting man, I'd be that he's there."
Chicago's willingness to put Viciedo in an open competition pushed them past three other teams, Torres said, one of which was offering more than $11 million. Viciedo's familiarity with Ramirez, as well as the presence of Cuban Jose Contreras, helped sway him toward the White Sox.
Swells of interest overwhelmed Viciedo's initial showcase last week, when more than 100 scouts gathered in the Dominican Republic to watch him hit, run and throw. The next day, another workout drew 75 people, and Torres figured it would translate into a contract bigger than the $11 million.
"I honestly think this young man is worth a lot more," he said.
Torres was right about Ramirez, who signed for $4.75 million, an extremely affordable amount for the White Sox the next three seasons.
Viciedo, who turned professional at 15, hit .337 and made the All-Star team in Cuba as a 16-year-old. Scouts at his workout raved about his power bat, though they expressed concerns about his conditioning and wondered whether his weight would balloon.
Torres said he expects another of his Cuban clients, 20-year-old center fielder Felix Perez, to sign within the next two weeks. A left-handed-hitting center fielder, Perez was lightly regarded when playing for Isla de Juventud in Cuba but impressed scouts with his five-tool potential while working out alongside Viciedo last week. He has eight teams vying for him, Torres said.
"There is serious interest," Torres said, indicating Perez, too, could receive a major-league contract. "Some clubs that originally thought they'd have a shot at him have been surprised."