MLB rumors: Athletics 'heavy favorites' to sign Cuban prospect Luis Morales

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Report: A's 'heavy favorites' to sign Cuban prospect Morales originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The Athletics haven't had a lot of success with their recent high-priced international free agent signings, but that's not stopping them from taking more swings.

ESPN's Kiley McDaniel reported Friday that the A's are "considered heavy favorites" to sign 19-year-old pitcher Luis Morales, who defected from Cuba last September.

McDaniel reported, citing sources, that Morales will be declared eligible to sign a free-agent deal on Sept. 7, though he isn't expected to sign until Jan. 15, 2023, when the new international signing period opens up.

Per McDaniel, Morales is expected to receive a "record-breaking" contract.

While the A's have signed impact international players like Yoenis Céspedes, Miguel Tejada, and Bert Campaneris, several of their recent signings have struggled once they start playing stateside.

In 2016, they signed another Cuban prospect, Lázaro Armenteros, for $3 million. But the now-23-year-old outfielder has struggled at the plate and in his fifth full professional season, he hasn't played above High-A.

In 378 career minor league games, "Lazarito" is batting .253/.352/.414 with 56 doubles, 45 home runs, 175 RBI, 75 stolen bases, and 588 strikeouts.

Three years later, the No. 3 international prospect per MLB Pipeline -- Robert Puason -- signed with the A's for $5 million. But much like Armenteros, Puason has been slow to acclimate to the minor leagues. In two full professional seasons, the 19-year-old Dominican Republic native is hitting .215/.277/.294 with six homers, 54 RBI, 14 stolen bases, and 260 strikeouts in 184 games.

Last year, the A's gave $2.5 million to Dominican outfielder Pedro Pineda. The 18-year-old recently graduated from rookie ball to Single-A Stockton and is hitting .188 in 42 games for the Ports.

The A's big signing this year was 17-year-old outfielder Carlos Pacheco from Venezuela, who got $1.2 million and is playing in the Dominican Summer League.

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If the A's land Morales, they are hoping he gives their farm system a much-needed boost. And because he's 19, there's a chance he reaches Oakland faster than some of the team's recent signings.