On Saturday Major League Baseball’s 2022 international signing period will open up. What used to take place on July 2nd has been pushed to January 15th in the last two years. After sitting in the penalty box for several years after going over their pool allotment to sign Jose Barrero, Vladimir Gutierrez, and Alfredo Rodriguez (among others – though those were the big, high-dollar signings) in the 2016 class, the Reds came out of the box swinging and picked up several 7-figure signings over the last two years. On Saturday they may be landing their biggest signing in years.

Cincinnati is expected to sign shortstop Ricardo Cabrera, a shortstop out of Venezuela. Both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline rate him as the #3 player overall in this signing class. One scout I’ve spoken with believes he’s the top player in the class.

The 6′ 0″ and 175 lb. infielder won’t be 18-years-old until Halloween. He’s a right-handed hitter who has an above-average to plus hit tool to go with above-average power, speed, arm strength, and defense. When it comes to non-Cuban signings on the international market, Cabrera’s the highest rated player the organization has signed since these types of things have been tracked.

While Cabrera is the top player expected to sign with Cincinnati, the organization has several other guys that are ranked in the top 50 of the class. Baseball America ranks Antuan Valencia, another Venezuelan shortstop, in their top 50 and has him listed as expected to sign with the Reds. MLB Pipeline also has Esmith Pineda, a Panamanian outfielder, in their top 50 and expected to sign with the Reds.

Several years ago Major League Baseball changed the rules so that teams can no longer go over their pool allotment to sign players and face penalties. You can only spend what you have in your pool, and according to this article from MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, this year teams can not trade with other teams to acquire more pool space. There are three different pool amounts. Eight teams get $6,262,600 this year. The Reds are in the next group and they get $5,721,500 of pool allotted spending. The final pool is $5,179,700. Nearly every team spends their full pool amount. Cincinnati has signed 15-25 players in recent years.

While the signing period begins on Saturday, not every deal will be rolling out that day. The signing period goes until December 15th. Players must be 16-years-old to sign, but they also must be at least 16-years-old by the end of August to sign (but can’t sign until their 16th birthday). As the signings roll out this next week, we’ll have updates and information on the players. Without big league free agency, this could be the big news around the baseball world for a while.

28 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    Any pitchers of note in the upper end of the projections?

  2. SultanOfSwaff

    Not being allowed to exceed your pool money will help a bit in restoring some competitive balance……..or at least it gives these non-spending valuation quadrupling franchises like the Reds some more talent than they otherwise would be willing to acquire. Still, Cincinnati isn’t the worst of the bunch in that regard, and their ability to attract talent from Latin America is better than most.

    • Mark Moore

      Agreed. Puts things on a more level playing field so clubs can’t just buy their way out of the penalties assessed.

    • TR

      Yes, the Reds have a long history of being a popular team in Latin America, especially Cuba, going back to the great pitcher, Dolf Luque (1918-1929) and, of course, the great Tony Perez among many others.

      • Oldtimer

        Reds GM Gabe Paul started a push for signing Cuban players in the 1950s and moved the Reds AAA minor league team to Havana (Sugar Kings). The Reds of the early 1960s benefitted greatly from this effort.

  3. Bred

    I’ve always been perplexed about how MLB has gotten away with signing international players who have a choice on who they sign with as teens, but stateside kids have to go through a draft. I guess I’m surprised that a stateside kid has not challenged this difference in court.

    • David

      I am just speculating here, because the question you raise is rather interesting. There are probably some “official” reasons, but my guess is that there are several reasons.
      1) Signing a player in from an island in the Caribbean or elsewhere it Latin America is a risk. They have not played under roughly equal conditions (such as American HS players or college players), and sometime scouting reports are sketchy.
      Reason #1: high risk
      2) All the Latin /Hispanic countries involved have different relations with the United States, and it is not always easy to get a visa for a young guy to come to the US to play minor league baseball.
      Reason #2: Visa problems
      3) Because of reason #1 and #2, it has been this way for a long time. The habitual thing to do has been made a routine. No draft, but a “pool” of money allowed for signings.
      Reason #3: Tradition/habit

      These are just my empirical guesses for answers, but it’s a good question to think about. Maybe someone else knows more than me; which is almost certain. 🙂

  4. greenmtred

    Is it possible that this provides some context for the Reds trying Barrero in center?

    • LDS

      Or perhaps the Reds are less than confident that Barrero’s hitting will get to ML levels. Regardless of the motivation, they have signed and drafted a lot of SS’s, e.g., McClain. Someone will have to move somewhere eventually.

      • Doug Gray

        Teams drafted and sign 10 guys listed as a shortstop every year. It’s an important position. But it’s also one where half of them, if you are lucky, can actually play a big league level of shortstop defense. And of that half, maybe one of them will ever hit well enough to reach the big leagues. The others you hope hit well enough to play another position.

      • Old-school

        We had a D1 college coach tell our summer travel team we take 4 SS each year for college

        1 for Cf
        1 for SS
        1 for 2b
        1 for 3b

    • greenmtred

      I should amplify: perhaps the Reds feel that they have more organizational strength at short than at center. I agree that Barrera’s ability to hit will be an important factor, but wouldn’t it be just as important if he plays center?

  5. MK

    As an old high school coach I’ll say 5 or 6 freshmen each year were the shortstop on their junior level teams, meaning they were decent athletes. Then they get moved to positions they are needed in high school much to the consternation of their fathers who think their kid has received a demotion.

    • Jim Walker

      (Many) decades ago when HS baseball was no doubt not as organized as now, it was typical that the 2 best all around athletes on the team would switch between being the starting pitcher in a given game and playing shortstop.

      One day when was playing 1B, I got hung out to dry when the SS threw a 2 seamer to me on a ground ball play. It was like being crossed up when catching as it took a late deep dive versus riding in to me. After the inning when everyone else was finished giving me grief or asking me how I dropped that throw, the guy stepped up to me and said sorry, I just told coach what happened and that it was on me.

  6. Old-school

    The Reds have had 1 good home grown SS in 30 years since Barry larkin- Zach cozart. Pokey Reese played 2b. They elected to trade the only other AS caliber SS in Didi Gregorius.

    We finally have a 23 yo 5 tool SS that blew up AA/AAA and you move him to CF because a 32 yo utility player had a solid few months? Who thinks Kyle Farmer pushing 32 is playing SS and staying healthy for 155 games the next 3 years? See Andrelton Simmons, Jose iglesias, Zach Cozart, Freddie Galvis, and Didi Gregorius for actual SS with track records and what happens at 32.

    Nick Krall says hes about home grown player development. I will take him at his word

    • Old Big Ed

      David Bell seemed to believe that Kyle Farmer had filled in admirably at SS last year and was a key to team chemistry, so he decided not to replace him with Barrero in August when Barrero was recalled. I think putting Barrero in CF was just a way to give him some ABs, while at least exploring whether he could play there.

      I also think that Bell understands and expects that Barrero will be the regular shortstop in 2022. Farmer himself likely understands that Barrero is the better option, even if he wouldn’t say that publicly.

      My own view is that the Reds sorely lack athleticism, and did so last August as well, and that it was and is imperative to play Barrero at short. I don’t think you can read anything long-term into Barrero’s usage last summer; it appears to be just a respect-for-Farmer thing that will not be repeated this year. In other words, Bell can’t really be so stupid as to play Farmer over Barrero going forward.

      Other than Barrero’s MLB usage, I don’t have any real problems with how the Reds’ prospects generally developed last year. The Reds went from having a 20th ranked system to a 10th-ranked system, while bringing up the Rookie of the Year and a catcher who was 5th in ROY voting, plus got some mileage out of some rookie pitchers. A lot of minor leaguers made big strides last season, with few bad injuries; they drafted very well; and they made strong international signings.

      Pokey Reese, for what it is worth, was an excellent major league shortstop defensively, as Barry Larkin himself would tell you. He was just stuck behind Larkin.

      • earmbrister

        From one old timer to two other old timers, I think you’ve gotten it right Old Big Ed. Barrero will be given every opportunity to take over at SS going forward. Old school, we didn’t sign the Andrelton Simmons or Didi’s of the world last year when we desperately needed a SS (and even though I mistakenly wanted to). The band-aid was cheap and was temporary. Farmer has proved himself to be a valuable member of the team, both from a leadership and a position flex standpoint, and I agree that Bell stuck with him for the benefit of long term team morale.

        With the young starting pitching in the pipeline, I’m a glass half full guy. 2022 will be an ascending year, while 2023 will be a contending year.

    • MuddyCleats

      Dittos! As of now, Reds aren’t a projected playoff team unless guys currently under contract play well above their heads. My guess is Geene, Lodolo & Barrero start season in AAA bc team simply isn’t ready to win. Therefore, there’s No sense rushing these guys or jerking them around to multiple positions IMO

      • MuddyCleats

        Not sure why it posted twice?
        Likewise, not sure why Reds would throw Barrero n as ML starting SS unless he kills n Spring Training? As team is constructed, it’s highly unlikely they’ll b competing for a playoff run? And, Barrero only has 45 games n AAA. Seems to me Reds would like to see more AB / success hitting n AAA B4 promoting him.

      • Billy

        Barrero is the SS next year. Farmer will be super sub.

    • greenmtred

      It remains to be seen whether all five of those tools are major league-worthy, and the speed, arm and defense are also desirable in centerfield–the speed more so. Trying Barrero in center isn’t like smashing a valuable sculpture: he could still end up being the shortstop or he could end up being a good centerfielder. Or he could prove himself unable to hit major league pitching ;and be remembered as anther highly-touted young player who didn’t make it.

      • DataDumpster

        So, we have 5 people on this team whose primary position was/is 3B. Yet, that has resulted in Senzel bumbling around and getting injured in CF, Lorenzen (not a 3B) but getting injured right after returning from the IL to “other” duties, Suarez failing at SS, and still having questions marks at 3B. So, let’s ruin Barerro as well when he is odds on the SS of the future and still needs a lot of work on all his other considerable “tools.”
        How many players can play multiple positions at a high level of competence? Well, Pete Rose and Farmer at a utility level but not too many others. Players are not fungible. Its hard enough to play one position with a clearly defined role consistently to earn a place in the everyday lineup. But, when you change the lineup, role, position, etc. constantly, players struggle and maybe at the end of the last season, become tired and disengaged. Let the considerable talent at the Reds minors level mature and not be thrown in the Reds blender only to be sent back on the whim of the perceived needs of some confounding experiment compliments of David Bell.
        BTW, the same can be said of the pitching side. Determine who are your closers, set up men, and starters instead of the “no defined roles” practiced by Bell.

      • MuddyCleats

        Agree, but I think it would b something worked on 1st n AAA after a legitimate shot at playing SS IMO. His 45 game stretch n AAA came n 2nd half when the better AAA SP had been promoted and AA guys have been brought forward. Reds need a SS & no one else n Reds pipeline is close to ML ready. I’d like to see if Barrero can handle SS & succeed vs SP like Green, Lodolo & some recycled ML SPs working their way back 2 ML. Truth b told, kid may not hit until he is relieved fm SS Def responsibilities, but I’d like to think Reds gave him an unhurried opportunity first

  7. David

    Eric Davis came up as a shortstop, and was then moved to CF. I don’t know how good a shortstop he actually was in the minors, but was a pretty good CF.
    Billy Hamilton came up as a SS. I don’t think he was that hot a SS, and then again, converted to CF.
    Brandon Phillips came up as a SS with the Indians, and they let him go because they didn’t think he was willing to move the 2nd Base.
    To echo what others have said above, SS is the most demanding position on the field in terms of athletic ability and a lot of the “best” players come us as short-stops.

  8. Votto4life

    This kid is 17 years old. It will be at least 4 or 5 years before he sees the majors (if ever). By the time he is ready for the big leagues, Jose Barrero will be too expensive for the Reds.

    • Greenfield Red

      Barrero is a 23 year old SS. The two highest rated internationals the Reds will sign this year are both 17 year old SSs. They drafted a 22 year old SS in the 1st round of 2021 and another in the 3rd round.

      If they were to trade one of the three top pitchers or Winker to the Yankees (who have too many young SS and are signing a SS as the No. 1 International), San Francisco, or Seattle, the return should start with a a highly rated 19 or 20 year old SS that each has in its farm system.

      I guess you hope it all boils down to 1 future all star SS (maybe two considering the age differences (17 – 23)) and the others you can develop and use elsewhere or trade off for pitching (that currently doesn’t seem to be as available) or other needs.

      • Greenfield Red

        Add into the mix Elly De La Cruz, who if he can get his K/BB rates in line, may be the best of them all, and he is a 19 year old SS.

        It’s often said, you can never have too much pitching, and that has proven to be true time and time again.

        I guess the Reds can say, you never have too many good young short stops. It’s probably true as well, and we’ll have to see how it all shakes out over the next 5 or so years.

        To me, the Reds have become an organization that continues to let us down year after year. All this young talent, particularly all the young SSs, is probably the only real bright spot on the horizon.