As Baseball America’s Ben Badle first reported on Friday, the Oakland A’s have made a big splash on the first day of the new international signing period. As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle confirmed on Saturday, the haul includes 17-year-old Cuban free agent Lazaro “Lazarito” Armenteros, who ranked No. 4 on Baseball America’s list of Cuban prospects and is viewed by many as his home country’s next superstar in Major League Baseball.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) July 2, 2016
The A’s will reportedly give Lazarito $3 million, which is a large chunk of the $3,818,700 international bonus pool money they have available. The A’s are expected to exceed that number, as they’ve also confirmed the signings of Dominican prospects Marcos Brito, Yerdel Vargas, and Kevin Richards, all of whom are ranked in the Top 40 among this season’s available international free agents.
How far Oakland goes over that limit will determine how limited they’ll be in pursuing next year’s crop of international free agents. That system is explained further at MLB Trade Rumors.
As for Armenteros, this is the next step in a long, agonizing journey. He defected from Cuba last year with the financial backing of investors, who will all get a percentage of his future earnings. He made four attempts to reach Haiti to establish residency, finally reaching his destination in May 2015. He remained in Haiti for seven grueling weeks, living in conditions that were described as deplorable. Armenteros resided in a house where electricity lasted only eight hours a day, and running water stopped for eight hours.
From there, Armenteros moved on to the Dominican Republic, where he was able to get his full attention back on baseball. He reportedly worked out six days a week to sharpen his skills and prepare for his showcase, which was held in Cristobal this past January.
Armenteros was declared a free agent on Feb. 10. Because of his age, however, he was subjected to international spending limitations. That’s why he didn’t receive a guarantee on par with other highly regarded Cuban prospects. It’s also part of the reason he waited until the new signing period began. A new signing period means more money’s available and there’s a better chance to maximize his value.
No, he didn’t break the bank. At least not by today’s standards. He has a home though. He has a contract. Most importantly, he has an opportunity to prove he belongs and to turn his journey into a dream come true.
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