Things haven’t gone particularly well for the 35-46 Chicago Cubs this season, but there’s reason to be hopeful for the future—though their latest acquisition may not have a major league impact for a few years.
According to Major League Baseball’s official Twitter feed, the Cubs have inked a $2.8 million deal with baseball’s top international prospect, outfielder Eloy Jimenez:
UPDATE: Thursday, August 1, at 9:12 p.m. ET by Eric Ball
Almost a month later, Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports the deal is official:
Cubs announce signing top Dominican prospect Eloy Jimenez, who agreed to terms weeks ago. ($2.8m bonus)— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) August 2, 2013
---End of update---
Chicago was rumored to be in pursuit of the Dominican 16-year-old for some time, and the signing comes as no surprise.
At 6’4” and 200 pounds, Jimenez has the size, speed and athleticism to be a tremendous MLB outfielder, though as noted by Ben Badler of Baseball America (subscription required), his power is still a work in progress.
As expected, the Cubs weren’t the only team in the mix for the top-rated target. According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, another club offered more money to acquire the outfielder, but Jimenez turned the offer down in favor of Chicago:
Source: OF prospect Eloy Jimenez & fam decide on #Cubs but another team was in mix & offered more $$. Expect announcement in next few days.— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) July 3, 2013
Chicago was able to offer the $2.8 million contract to Jimenez following an uptick in their international pool money, as noted by Tim Dierkes on Twitter:
Cubs' net international pool money gain today is $963,100, bringing their total pool up to $5,520,300 (barring more moves).— timdierkes (@timdierkes) July 2, 2013
Projecting Jimenez’s MLB potential is nearly impossible at this point, but there’s reason to be hopeful. According to Sanchez, scouts are thoroughly impressed with his skill set:
Scouts are impressed with Jimenez's intelligence, speed and gap-to-gap power, which is expected to improve as he gets older.
He's been praised as an advanced hitter with quick hands and he is expected to hit for average. On defense, Jimenez projects to be a corner outfielder, likely a right fielder because of his arm strength and athletic ability. He also runs the bases well and has the potential to be a basestealer.
But apart from his physical tools, Jimenez also has one very important trait with which his coaches should be enamored, as quoted by Sanchez:
"'It's my dream to be a Major League baseball player, but I don't want to just get there,' Jimenez said in Spanish. 'I want to be one of the best players in the game and to ever come from the Dominican Republic.'"
International signing rules are fairly complicated given the availability of elite international talent, and the Cubs were lucky to get their player following what was almost certainly a heated bidding war for the No. 1 prospect. As Sanchez suggests, Jimenez could be well on his way to an impressive MLB career by the time the league revises its current process for obtaining top international talent.