Source: Diamondbacks pay $8.25 million for 21-year-old Cuban pitcher
PHOENIX — As the U.S. normalizes relations with Cuba, the Diamondbacks are building relationships of their own.
Seven weeks after signing third baseman/outfielder Yasmany Tomas to a $64.5 million contract, the D-backs have agreed on an $8.25 million signing bonus with 21-year-old Yoan Lopez, according to a major-league source.
The deal will be finalized when Lopez passes a physical exam, which is expected to be administered at the team’s Dominican Republic academy.
Lopez, who defected from Cuba last summer and took up residence in Haiti, has the kind of power arm that teams covet. His fastball sits in the mid-90 mph range and has touched 100 mph, according to reports. He also showed command of his four-pitch repertoire in his last partial season with Isla de la Juventud of the Cuban Serie Nacional, where he posted a 3.12 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 11 walks in 49 innings before defecting last summer.
The D-backs saw Lopez, 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, in a private workout against hitters, and their offer beat out other suitors that reportedly included the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. Lopez was cleared to sign by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control last week after already having been cleared by Major League Baseball.
Although Lopez is young and relatively inexperienced, he will be given a chance to win a spot in the Diamondbacks’ rotation this spring, joining a host of candidates. Right-handers Josh Collmenter, Rubby De La Rosa, Jeremy Hellickson and Allen Webster and tentatively penciled into the top four spots.
Left-handers Vidal Nuno and Robbie Ray and right-handers Trevor Cahill, Chase Anderson and Randall Delgado are among the candidates for a rotation spot, and left-hander Patrick Corbin (June) and right-bander Bronson Arroyo (July-August) are expected to return from Tommy John surgery in the middle of the season.
At the same time, the D-backs would not be averse to having Lopez spend some acclimation time in the minor leagues, perhaps as a complement to top prospects Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley and Aaron Blair at Class AA Mobile.
Lopez’ signing bonus is the largest for an international amateur, topping the $8 million the Los Angeles Angels paid shortstop Roberto Baldoquin, 20, who also defected from Cuba last year.
One report said Lopez turned down a $9 million offer from another club to join the D-backs, who on Monday announced the hiring of coach/interpreter Ariel Prieto, one of the first Cubans to pitch in the United States.
The D-backs will pay a price for signing Lopez, who is subject to the rules governing the international bonus pool because he has not played five years in the Cuban national league. The D-backs will face a 100 percent tax for every dollar spent above their bonus pool allotment, and they are unable to sign an international amateur for more than $300,000 for the next two signing periods. The first begins July 2.