With most of the dust settling on the free-agent market, few impact players remain for the taking.
Most of the talk surrounds Roy Oswalt and Cuban outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler.
But the Cuban that Theo Epstein should have his eye on towards rebuilding the future is 18-year-old pitcher Gerardo Concepcion. Concepcion is officially a free agent after receiving residency in Mexico.
Cespedes makes an immediate impact and Soler is too big of a risk. Concepcion is the perfect mix of potential and affordable that will vastly improve the rebuilding foundation Epstein is putting in place.
After I said Soler isn't worth chasing, one may wonder what makes Concepcion different. While both are young Cuban players, they are very different situations.
First of all, Concepcion is a starting pitcher, left-handed at that. When the time comes that I have my first son (hopefully not anytime soon) you better believe I'm putting everything in his left hand and hoping he is blessed with a cannon. Quality left-handed pitchers don't come around often, which explains why many teams are willing to invest time and money into them.
So big deal, he's left-handed. So are Doug Davis, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Marshall. While each was serviceable in his own way, none of them are or were front-end starters. Maybe Concepcion isn't the next ace of the staff, but it's worth the risk to find out.
Contract demands aren't specific, but he may be looking at a deal similar to that of Kansas City Royal's prospect Noel Arguellas who signed a five-year deal for $7 million.
Besides position, this is the biggest difference between Soler and Concepcion. Concepcion is looking for just over $1 million a year, while Soler wants more in the range of $5 million a year. It doesn't sound like much to one of the higher-spending markets in baseball, but that $4 million dollar difference can be spent each year for fill-in players or bullpen help.
What else is there to Concepcion? He is a lanky 6'1" and 175 pounds. At his young, ripe age he figures to have room to grow into his frame and add more velocity to his already 91-94 mph fastball. He also features an above-average curveball to go along with a change-up and slider.
Concepcion earned the 2011 Cuban National Series Rookie of the Year competing against older players, many in their prime. Despite whatever level the Cuban National Series is compared to, any award is an accomplishment at 18 years old.
He finished with a 10-3 mark to go along with a solid 3.36 ERA. In just over 100 innings, he gave up just 6 home runs while averaging 4.9 K/9 rate. While not thoroughly impressive, it's a number that is expected to continue to rise as he grows into his body.
Because he isn't widely known, he will be able to grow under-the-radar in the minors without the pressures of being rushed to the Majors like previous prospects may have been. He'll also benefit from playing for newly hired Double-A pitching coach Jeff Fassero, who had an extensive career as a left-handed pitcher himself.
Ben Badler of Baseball America provides a brief scouting report that says part of Concepcion's negative side is his mechanics. Concepcion delivers the ball across his body, which some think is deceiving to hitters, while others believe it worsens his curveball.
Either way, mechanics are something that can be fixed at 18 years old in the minor leagues.
Whether he is the next Ardolis Chapman or just a bust is up in the air. But he sure is worth the price to find out.
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