Fernando Cruz – Picture via his Instagram
It is a little hard to come up with some storylines for the 2024 international free agent signing period with less than two months to go. The Cubs have been linked to one top player and not much else. There are a lot of things that are unknown. Still, there are still a lot of questions that we can ask before these things come to fruition on January 15. Let’s get right to the questions.
The Cubs have been in on Fernando Cruz for a couple of years now. The young shortstop and cousin of Starlin Castro is set to sign with the Cubs on January 15. The most obvious storyline/question revolving around Cruz is just how good is this kid because he’s going to eat up most of the CUbs’ $5+ million bonus pool. Is he going to be a guy this summer who quickly becomes a top 20 prospect or even a top 10 guy? Is he going to be a player who is good enough to debut stateside or get the rare midseason promotion stateside?
What could change the storyline for Cruz is if he does appear stateside in spring training. That will send a shockwave through the system as he is likely not going to head back to the Dominican once he’s in Mesa. So, his inclusion or absence will tell us quite a bit right from the get-go. Who knows, maybe he comes up during extended spring training, but it’s mostly just a hurry up and wait type of thing.
Here is what Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com wrote about Cruz’s skillset:
Known as a hitter capable of spraying the ball to all fields due to his tremendously strong hands and forearms, Cruz has enough strength in his swing to enable him to hit to right field as if he were a left-handed batter. With an easy load and superb bat speed, his sound offensive approach portends to lend itself to 20-25 homer power as he matures. Despite being known as an aggressive swinger, he has an advanced feel for the barrel.
Currently, both Baseball America and MLB do not have any extensive lists of what each team is up to and who they are in on. At this point, it might be a little early to do that. A preview might be more plausible once the new year gets here.
With Cruz likely taking up 80% of the Cubs budget, I’m wondering just how the rest of that money is going to be spread around. Will they go after another top 50 guy? Or will they tend to go bulk with a lot of guys in the $50,000-100,000 bonus range?
Normally, the Cubs have a big deal at their Dominican Academy on signing day with all of the players and their family in attendance. So, this question on who they sign will probably be answered fairly quickly, even a lot faster than the Cruz quandaries.
In addition, it will be interesting to see the mix positions of the players the Cubs sign in January. In recent years, it’s been mostly shortstops and catchers and then they tend to move them around the diamond once they get into the development program. I’m curious if we’ll see any guys signed that play in the outfield on January 15 and as well as pitching.
In recent years, the Cubs have been reluctant to sign a lot of 16 or 17 year old pitchers, they have tended to wait and get guys who are a little bit more physically developed at age 18. Still, it’ll be interesting to see just exactly how many guys they sign immediately.
In recent years, the Cubs have been patient and continue to sign players all spring and early summer to fill up the rosters. Will that trend continue?
I would say yes.
In the big scheme of things, though, the signing of Cruz and his placement and performance are going to be the main focus of any news coming out of the next signing period.