The Cincinnati Reds had long shied away from being involved in the top end of the international signing market that took place outside of Cuba. That trend has gone away over the last half-decade, though, for a variety of reasons. Fangraphs has updated their international prospect section of “The Board”, which is basically their prospect portal. One of the top rated players in the 2023 class is Alfredo Duno, a catcher from Venezuela. He is currently listed as projected to sign with the Reds.

Duno is noted by Fangraphs to have big time bat speed with a 30 home run ceiling. Defensively, he is like every teenage catcher on the planet – a long way down the development line. There’s a chance he winds up being a below-average defender and can remain at the position where his bat could play as one of the better ones around if it develops to it’s potential.

After signing Yorman Rodriguez and Juan Duran to 7-figure signing bonuses the Reds went nearly a decade without signing another non-Cuban international player to a 7-figure bonus before doing so in 2015. In that time, though, Cincinnati did sign both Aroldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias to big league contracts – something that would no longer be allowed (think of the Shohei Ohtani signing as an example of how the new rules would work).

With the international signing rules set to change after the 2016 signing period, Cincinnati (and many other teams) went all-in. The Reds picked up Jose Barrero (then Jose Garcia), Vladimir Gutierrez, and Alfredo Rodriguez – all fro Cuba, and all to a bonus of over $4,000,000 each before penalties (which nearly doubled the amount paid by the Reds). Spending limits were then capped in MLB on the international side, and the Reds had to basically sit out of any “big” spending the next two seasons as penalty (no signings of more than $300,000).

Each of the last two signing periods after serving the penalty they’ve landed 7-figure players. They seem to have at least one in the 2022 class with Ricardo Cabrera, who according to one scout I’ve spoken to is the best player in the entire class. And could very well have another one in the 2023 class in Alfredo Duno. Things are changing in how Cincinnati operates on the international level.

37 Responses

  1. ryan

    Cue “Annie”, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow….

    • BK

      Agreed! Very excited to see the Reds push to compete in the international free agent market. It will pay dividends long term.

      • ryan

        Aren’t you all tired of the future that never comes? The next minor league Savior/Hero that doesn’t pan out? The no WS since 1991?

      • Greenfield Red

        If it’s truly a future that never comes, there’s not much reason to be a fan. I believe they can win the Series again in my lifetime. I disagree with much of what they do in the effort to get there.

        To me, being very involved in the international market is one big piece of what it takes. The other is to cash in current tradable assets (Castillo, Gray, Mahle, and Winker) to build a huge roster of high end prospects. If only 1/3 pan out, it could be enough to get the job done.

        I have no interest whatsoever in an attempt to be competitive… to play .500 ball and snag that last playoff spot.

        I want them to be great, and they can be, even if on a budget.

        Good is the enemy of great.

      • 2020ball

        What I’m tired of is fans just looking for any and every reason to complain.

      • 2020ball

        @Greenfield If youre just trading away all those prospects once they’re developed, then you’re never actually competing. I prefer to think that you should be making the playoffs as often as possible and eventually you break through. Great teams that just load up for one big year lose in October all the time. That said, you’re advocating for something similar to what the Rays do which isn’t the worst strategy for a small market team.

      • Greenfield Red

        2020ball, I get what you are saying. However, the four mentioned players are valuable trade chips now. By the time the Reds actually have a chance to win it all with all these younger guys, they will be long-gone free agents, and the Reds will have gotten nothing… except maybe a draft choice for them.

        Think back 5 years. They held on to numerous similar players… Frazier, Cueto, even Johnny Gomes was marketable for a time. They got little for them. They gave away Chapman for nothing.

        If you combine the young guns they have now, with booty from trades, upcoming internationals, maybe even another job draft pick, it may be enough.

        Snagging the last playoff spot with an 84-78 record for a 1 game playoff against some unhittable pitcher on the West Coast is of no interest.

        If you are satisfied with good, that’s all you will ever be.

        Good is the enemy of great.

      • BK

        @Ryan, no I’m not tired of cheering on my beloved Reds.

      • 2020ball

        What constitutes “great” though? And are we that certain the Reds will ever even be able to be great with their “payroll alignments”? And will you be able to even see it coming all together the few years before it does? I’ve seen teams with supposed cant-miss farm systems fizzle out regardless of all that talent.

        I, too, get what youre saying. But why is it a crime now-a-days to be happy with one game playoff? Obviously thats not the goal, the goal ought to be to win your division, but how is that bad? And one of the things I see mentioned by the fans they’d like to see less of is teams simply tanking. I guess my mentality is you should be trying to win at all times and that will run counter to some who are willing to go all in on youth movements. I prefer a mix myself, the Giants did exactly that this season after everyone had written them off as too old and hanging onto assets too long.

        Anyway, its just a difference in opinion on a preferred direction of a struggling club I guess. I personally applaud the Reds for being one of the few teams to make an effort to win instead of caving to the re-rebuild. Unfortunately they tried doing it the cheap way so as to keep all the investors fat and happy.

      • 2020ball

        And call me crazy, as I’m sure many do, but I think the Reds aren’t as worse-off as many think. If they can somehow shore up the pen and a few of their young pitching prospects break out I think the team will be fine. The OF has me worried though, hopefully they can stay relatively healthy.

      • Alan Horn

        2020ball, you make a lot of good points in which I tend to agree.

      • Luke J

        Professional leagues build competitive balance into the system these days. There is no such thing as “great” anymore. Winning titles is about getting into the playoffs and getting hot at the right time. Waiting to build a so called great team is waiting for something to never come. The goal needs to be to consistently get into the playoffs. Once there, anything can happen. Ask the Braves.

      • greenmtred

        Greenfield Red: You pointed out, correctly, that there have been a number of teams that have gone from worst to first. While this is true, it’s far from universally true. Far enough to not be a valid template. Being a good team doesn’t make it less likely that you will win the WS, but does make it more likely that you will be fun and exciting to follow and, of course, gives you fewer hurdles to overcome to be the champion. There’s one of those per season. “Good” is not a synonym for “mediocre.”

      • MuddyCleats

        Problem w/ the “trade for prospects” idea is that the Reds rarely ever make a good trade. Far too often they become the next Chapman/Iglesias trade were they give them away for nothing in return. IMO, it’s due to trying to get a slew of prospects instead of getting at least ONE good player. BP last season is a prime example of this approach. Almost every BP pitcher picked up was very effective for a short period of time, but became pitched out / injured / and then ineffective over time. So many times they didn’t need great; they needed 2 or 3 guys how could be effective at the same time so no one guy was over-used. Same goes for position players. 4th and 5th OFs were terrible last season. Likewise, team could have really used a 1B/3B sub. Further, Farmer played most of the 2nd 1/2 injured due to no other reasonable sub was available. Regulars got run down and eventually missed significant games or under performed which COULD have been the difference in making or missing the playoffs. My local HS football team just won a State Championship with a lot of good players – NO great ones……..? Reds need to put a TEAM on the field instead of trying to plug squares into round holes and trying to make it work.

  2. old-school

    Hopefully the Reds can find more Elly De la Cruz’s
    The Athletic has an article up on 10 intriguing players in the Dominican Winter league and the Reds Francisco Urbaez made the list for his strike zone knowledge and defense at 2nd 3rd, leading his team in walks, hits, and runs scored

    Yasiel Puig made it for poor performance.

  3. Klugo

    International is the way to go, imo.

  4. Greenfield Red

    This is exciting and leads to a couple of questions: When will Cabrera and the rest of the 2022s sign? Is there hope that Valdez and Almonte make a big move in 2022? Are AlfRod and Miguel Hernandez falling out of the Reds plans?

    • Doug Gray

      Right now there’s still some uncertainty in the air about when the next signing period will begin. It’s slated for January 15th, but there’s a chance it gets pushed back.

      • Greenfield Red

        Thanks for that. It’s always better after they actually sign.

  5. Hotto4Votto

    Kudos to the Reds for prioritizing the international market after essentially ignoring it for years. De La Cruz is already starting to look like a diamond in the rough, and there were some exciting young players to follow in AZL and DSL this past season. It’s hugely important to find and develop international players as a small market club. Glad to see it’s been on the forefront lately.

  6. Oldtimer

    The Reds made a concerted effort to sign Cuban players in the mid 1950s. They even moved their AAA farm them to Havana. Among the players signed were Tony Perez and Leo Cardenas. Very successful move by GM Gabe Paul back then.

  7. Max BRAGG

    We heard Barrero is READY but what is ready for Duble AA? IT is OKAY to look at players outside America,but let’s start checking their bat Speed(SHOGO)

  8. Votto4life

    The big market teams are smart, they let the Reds and other such teams pay big singing bonuses, pay for the player’s development and then If the player develops into anything of value squire the player from the Reds as soon as they become too expensive.

    The Reds assume the risk. If the player doesn’t pan out then the big market teams dodge a bullet. If the player does pan out,
    then the big market teams can acquire the player by merely agreeing to assume the players salary.

    Rich get Richer

    • BK

      I didn’t know the large market teams had stopped signing international free agents. Can you share where you read about this?

      • Votto4life


        Can you share with me where I said big market teams stopped signing international free agents?

        Of course you can’t show me because I never said it. Nice try at twisting my words though. We have some lovely consolation prizes for you.

        What I did say is in the current system, Big Market teams almost always end up with the most talented players.

        Big market teams don’t have to depend on their farm system. They can just buy talent through free agency or by raping small market teams, like the Reds, through trades.

        I hope the lockout will continue until something is done to address the inequalities of the current system.

      • BK

        @Votto, sorry about that. I genuinely thought you were stating the large market teams were shying away from the IFA market realizing they could just wait until they were mature big league free agents and pluck the best ones away from small market teams.

        I agree with you that MLB is structurally broken: largest market teams have significantly more resources to acquire talent; and they use their resource advantage to drive the price of top free agents beyond what most smaller market teams can afford. Until teams are competing on a relatively equal basis for talent, we will be frustrated Reds fans.

    • greenmtred

      Votto: what you’re describing is free-agency, right? The results weren’t so dissimilar prior to free-agency, though: teams like–especially–the Yankees raided the rosters of poorer teams such as the As the Senators and the A’s for talent. The rich got richer….

      • Votto4life

        Greenmtred, yeah it’s been a problem since day one, free agency just exasperated the situation.

  9. burtgummer01

    Great,he’d play here for a couple years then trade him for nothing just like another top player from Cuba

  10. Douglas Murphy

    Takes time to build a competitive team of daily players keeping them for at least 5 years after winning MLB world series championship.

  11. Bigbill

    Until there is a salary cap baseball will become more and more irrelevant as there will only be a few teams each year that have a chance to be consistently good as they have way to much financial advantage. In the NFL even the Bengals can get off the deck and start being a quality team because the playing field is pretty even all things considered.

    • Alan Horn

      I agree. That is the only way to level the playing field. Most unions other than baseball have a compensation schedule. The bottom line is that the owners(some of them) are irresponsible when it comes to compensation. Some have deep pockets and money is no object. The only way to keep them in check and have competitive baseball is some sort of salary cap that is fair to all. Keep the time before free agency the same in order to protect the original signing team’s investment. Contracts like Moose’s (which is irresponsible) will still happen, but will be far from the norm.

      • Mike

        Should have kept the bullpen intact last year instead of trading the closer and back-up maybe give up some prospects to lose the moose contract instead and you wouldn’t have had to worry about a one game playoff.

  12. Brad

    I am all for adding talent however you can. But it seems the Reds spend the most capital on catching prospects. Every other draft there is a #1 or #2 pick used on catchers – Tyler Stephenson, Chris Okey, Jackson Miller, Mat Nelson. Not a versatile group positionally. Again, all for adding talent but preferred the spending on two top position prospects a year – INF one year and OF the next, in an ideal world.