White Sox poised for grand opening to international signing period

Major League Baseball is planning to hold a bargaining session with the MLB Players Association on Thursday. If it’s anything like previous negotiation sessions, nothing’s going to come of it, but reports of coming talks are better than drop-dead silence.

Assuming nothing significant comes immediately from this round, the opening of the international signing period on Saturday will get its time to shine, In a winter so starved for baseball news that the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft had unprecedented pull, Jan. 15 should have some real juice.

That’s especially the case for the White Sox, who promise to be unusually active this year. MLB.com and Baseball America both have the White Sox tied to the same two prospects in their rankings. BA’s Ben Badler says they’re one of four clubs set to sign a pair of $1 million players, and while one of them has been highly anticipated because he fits the White Sox’s typical profile, the less-heralded signing could portend better days ahead in this department.

OSCAR COLÁS

OF, Cuba
MLB.com: No. 5 | BA: No. 5

Colás was once regarded as the Cuban Shohei Ohtani, but now he’s more considered a left fielder with a strong arm. He last played professionally in 2019, spending most of the season on the roster of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ minor league team. He hit .302/.350/.516 as a 20-year-old, an improvement over his struggles in 2018 (.212/.259/.519). He earned a promotion to the first team and homered in his first trip to the plate. He ultimately went 5-for-18 with a homer, walk and six strikeouts, getting plunked twice.

He then had a contentious separation from the Hawks, sitting out the 2020 season on the restricted list before Fukuoka cut him loose during the following winter. The issue was his contract, which the Cuban government negotiated on his behalf.

His Hawks contract, negotiated by the Cuban government, contained a five-year team option. Colas insists it was never explained to him and thought he had no obligation to SoftBank beyond 2019.

He defected last winter in the hope of signing a deal with a major league club, something SoftBank would not permit.

Colás was let go in December of 2020, a little more than a month before 2021-22 signing period opened. He could’ve signed during that window, but with most teams already having committed the majority of their budgets, he wouldn’t have been able to find many offers that breached seven figures. By waiting a year, he’s able to get a bigger bonus from the White Sox, with Cuban baseball reporter Francys Romero saying Colás will sign for $2.7 million.

Now 23, Colás has filled out, and Baseball America says “his body type, range and athleticism will likely limit him to either left field or first base,” although he tried to do what he could to reverse it with positive impressions of his conditioning at his December workout. The hopes are riding on his bat either way.

ERICK HERNANDEZ

OF, Dominican Republic
MLB.com: No. 28 | BA: No. 44

While it’s no surprise that the White Sox were able to land a Cuban in his early 20s, it’s noteworthy when the White Sox can manage to sign a Dominican teenage talent. The White Sox hadn’t signed a non-Cuban to a bonus of $1 million since Josue Guerrero back in 2016. That was also the year that the Sox splurged on Luis Robert, so they were prohibited from bonuses higher than $300,000 the next two years, but still. The White Sox’s biggest signings since have gone to Yolbert Sánchez ($2.5 million), Yoelqui Céspedes ($2.050 million) and Norge Vera ($1.5 million), all of whom 1) hailed from Cuba and 2) were at least 20 years old.

So here’s Hernandez, who turns 17 on signing day. He’s a 6-foot, 175-pound lefty-lefty outfielder with a sound approach at the plate. The disparity in evaluations stems from the belief in his power potential. Baseball America says Hernandez has a “hit-over-power profile,” while MLB.com dropped a too-tall comparison on him.

Hernandez’s biggest comp is a lofty one: Juan Soto. Hernandez, like Soto, is a solid hitter as a teen and could hit the ball hard to all fields.

Hernandez has a very advanced approach at the plate and has shown the ability to adjust. He also displayed the ability to handle himself against right-handed and left-handed pitching, which is rare for a prospect his age. Physically, he’s lean and athletic with lots of room to grow and add strength. 

That’s great, but it’s hard to take it seriously when the more optimistic of reads ranks him No. 28.

Setting that side, this is a positive development for Marco Paddy and the White Sox. The Cuban connection is indeed a major asset, but the farm system’s struggle to gain and develop the most precocious of talent is perhaps the biggest reason why the prospect list is so shorthanded in the wake of the prospects that required resources other ways (big trades, first-round money). Jose Rodriguez is a terrific success story, and I suspect Bryan Ramos isn’t far behind, but I’ve been waiting to see the White Sox increase their chances for international success by increasing their resources and lengthening the runway, and this is what that would look like.

(Photo by Neko Kabachi)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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ForsterFTOG

A 23 year old OF/1B with very limited experience who needs to watch his conditioning is what I see.
Will he spend a year away for tax purposes as well?

Wayne

James Fox thinks it he will spend this year in the Dominican Summer League. But if he is on the right program, he can start in High A or AA in 2023. I am interested to see where Vera starts this year.

ForsterFTOG

Can’t imagine the benefit of a 23 year old going to the DSL.

joewho112

It’s a shame about Colas missing so much time because of contractual stuff. It’s terrible to throw years of a person’s life

GrinnellSteve

I like that they’re both left-handed.

BenwithVen

Over at FG, Logenhagen said Colas is probably a good platoon/bench bat of the Daniel Vogelbach variety.

That’s not awful, but I’d personally wish spending half of the budget on one player bought a little more upside.

HallofFrank

To be fair, FG doesn’t call Daniel Vogelbach his upside. Based on scouting reports and his performance, I’d say his upside is probably left-handed, healthy Eloy Jimenez territory. Maybe that’s his 90 or 95% outcome.

BenwithVen

true, I guess “most likely outcome” is the better term.

phillyd

I thought I read/heard that BA is ranking the international FA by signing bonus and not based on talent since they did not get many looks at the kids due to COVID,

Augusto Barojas

It’s a shame that by the time Colas and/or Vera might be MLB ready, guys like Anderson and Giolito might be playing for different teams. I highly doubt Colas (or Cespedes) will be a big impact bat, but by the time we know, the Sox “window” of supposedly aspiring for a World Series will be gone like a thief in the night.

Right Size Wrong Shape

That’s kind of the way it’s supposed to work, though. “Waves of talent”.

Augusto Barojas

I don’t see this team ever winning a title (or even getting to an ALCS for that matter) with that philosophy, esp since Colas is unlikely to be anything close to Luis Robert. “Waves of talent” pretty much a recipe for settling for a good team with a lot of potential that never becomes great. We all know the reasons why.

joewho112

The waves can be used as trade capital to supplement the current team, not just sustain winning in the long run.

Augusto Barojas

If there is division re-alignment post lockout, there may not be much “winning” to sustain, as if winning the pitiful AL Central and doing annual face plants in the postseason would ever truly be considered “winning”.

jhomeslice

The way they set out to build a sustained winner was completely the right way. They built a great foundation, made great trades, got their best young players under reasonable contracts for years. But when it came to finishing the rebuild, adding what they need through free agency… Reinsdorf just quit basically.

ParisSox

good summary

HallofFrank

I’m definitely feeling this, too, but, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere: if the Sox sign a player or two in their price range (say, $50m over 3-4 years), then I’d be happy to say, “the money was spent.” They are currently 5th in 2022 payroll and even another modest addition or two could put them in 4th (I don’t think they’ll catch the Yanks at 3rd) and close to $190m. Of course, they may not have spent how we would have spent, but you’d be hard-pressed to say they didn’t spend.

Of course, that’s a big “if.” If they don’t make another noteworthy addition or two, it’ll certainly be a failure of the FO.

jhomeslice

They were 15th in payroll last year, behind even the Cubs. That after being near dead last in MLB a few years ago. 16M of their payroll is Kimbrel. If they had not picked up his option they would be 10th; ditto if they deal him for a prospect as they hope, although any team would be nuts to not force the Sox to pick up at least half his salary. I doubt they will be top 10 in payroll if/when the season starts and the remaining free agents sign with other teams. I’ll go out on a limb and say they won’t have a higher payroll than the Astros before all is said and done.

I’m not hard pressed to still say they have not spent, when Jerry’s net worth is up 200M since 2020 and their big offseason splash this winter is Graveman for 8M. I hope you’re right that they make another notweworthy addition or two, rather than doing next to nothing and getting passed by several other teams in payroll as I expect.

HallofFrank

Like I said: this is all predicated on if. But it’s not a farfetched if. Handing out $15-20m AAV worth of contract(s) after the lockout would likely keep them in the top 5 in payroll. And, given the contracts on the books, I’d expect them to stay ~top 5 for *at least* two more years.

If that happens, the money was spent. Think of it this way: if you’d have asked us at the beginning of the rebuild or after the “money will be spent” comment,”would running a Top 5 payroll in baseball for 3 straight years satisfy you?” the answer has to be yes. Again, maybe we’re not happy with how it was spent. But that’s a different complaint.

jhomeslice

Of course anybody would concede that the money was spent if they were top 5 in payroll for 3 years. But that’s a pretty far fetched hypothetical. I think more likely that they won’t be top 5 in any of next 3 years. The lockout makes this an unusual offseason, they might not even be in the top 10 by the time the season starts. They’re 12M away from being like 9th, and other teams like the Astros are not going to stand pat. I’d bet you anything you want that they won’t be top 5, assuming there is a season. I think they will wind up 10th or 11th. If you’re right, hallelujah… the only way that happens is if they upgrade the roster, because other teams payrolls are not going to stay the same.

Wayne

Wheler deal hurts to me, and that was the largest offer. Harper being here would fill that RF, LHH hole we have too.

HallofFrank

I don’t buy this. We just saw the Braves—possibly the worse team in the playoffs—win without Ronald Acuna. Having the best team obviously helps, and I hope the Sox spend the money to be great, but, even without further additions, the ’22 team is absolutely a threat to win the WS.

I lean towards a philosophy that builds a sustainable winner rather than selling the farm to maximize a short window. We’ve seen how a team like the Cardinals are consistently good and occasionally, when the pieces fall into place, great. To me, that’s the model to strive for.

GrinnellSteve

100%.

dongutteridge

This is so White Sox. I opened the post excited to read about the bounty of the new Sox international signings to discover a grand total of 2 prospects and only one of those with much of a ranking.

Waves of talent, okay.

HallofFrank

Yeah, these are encouraging developments. And you mentioned the Sox older, Cuban signings… I still don’t know what to think about Cespedes, but Yolbert and Vera both seem like excellent signings (so far) in hindsight.

peanutsNcrackerjack

Thank you, Jim, for some meat and potatoes to chew on during this baseball news famine.