Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez has agreed to terms on a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
MLB’s National Reporter, Jesse Sanchez reports that the deal includes a bonus of $8.27 million, setting the record for the largest deal under the new international guidelines.
As it is a minor-league deal, the contract gives Arizona six years of service-time control over Lopez.
Lopez, 21, defected from Cuba last year and established residency in Haiti. Major League Baseball declared him a free agent shortly thereafter and he held a showcase for interested teams in November.
The United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control finally cleared Lopez last week allowing him to negotiate salaries with interested suitors. It’s speculated that there was significant interest – and reportedly even an offer for $9 million – from other clubs, such as the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, and Los Angeles Dodgers.
In the end, it’s believed Lopez viewed Arizona as his quickest path to the big leagues.
Lopez has a five pitch arsenal that includes a cut fastball, a changeup, and a curveball; but his bread-and-butter, is the dynamic one-two punch of his devastating slider and a punishing fastball that regularly hits the mid-90s on the radar gun.
While he does have the ability to overpower hitters, his stuff is still considered somewhat raw and he has struggled with control issues in the past.
A quick rundown from Ben Badler of Baseball America gives an example of how electric, and untamed, Lopez can be:
During his final season pitching in Cuba for Isla De La Juventud in Serie Nacional, Lopez posted a 3.12 ERA with a 28-11 K-BB mark in 49 innings in seven starts. When Lopez pitched in Cuba’s 18U national league in 2011, he had a 1.74 ERA in 77 2/3 innings with 88 strikeouts and 45 walks, ranking second in the league in both strikeouts and walks, and third in wild pitches (9).
Lopez is expected to begin his big league career in Single-A ball, but it’s believed that the Diamondbacks plan to invite him to major league spring training.
There is some polishing that needs to be done, but if Lopez can show that he’s put his control issues behind him, he can become a key part of the Arizona rotation in the very near future.
Arizona has been very active on the international market this off-season.
In addition to Lopez, the club also signed a six-year, $68.5 million deal with slugging outfielder Yasmany Tomas who also defected from Cuba.
The club is undoubtedly hoping that their big investments in the Cuban market prove to be equally big investments in the future of the franchise.