UPDATE (Jan. 12, 8:25 p.m. PT): According to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball, the Los Angeles Dodgers finalized their contract with Cuban infielder Jose Miguel Fernandez.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said on Wednesday the club was nearing a deal with the 28-year-old.
As was widely projected, the Los Angeles Dodgers quickly exceeded their bonus pool total of $2,020,300 during the 2015-16 international signing period. Yadier Alvarez, Ronny Brito and Starling Heredia were among the prospects signed on July 2, 2015.
Los Angeles added other talent during the one-year window, and closed the signing period by inking Cuban outfielder Yordan Alvarez. Including the tax penalty, the Dodgers spent just over $92 million on 2015-2016 international bonuses.
By exceeding their allotted bonus pool to sign players subject to international signing restrictions, the Dodgers faced a 100 percent tax penalty on dollars spent, plus a $300,000 bonus limit for international amateurs over the next two international signing periods.
However, international guidelines have changed under the new collective bargaining agreement. Beginning with the 2017 signing period, each team gets a minimum of $4.75 million to spend on pool-eligible international prospects.
Whether taking into account the old or new rules and restrictions, Cuban second baseman Jose Miguel Fernandez is exempt from international bonus pools, and has signed a Minor League contract with the Dodgers, per Universo Deportivo:
— Universo Deportivo (@UniversoRD) January 8, 2017
According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, an agreement has not yet been reached:
Sources: Veteran Cuban INF Jose Miguel Fernandez nearing a Minor League deal with the #Dodgers. He defected from Cuba in December of 2015.
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) January 8, 2017
The Dodgers reportedly scouted Fernandez last May. He has been eligible to sign with an MLB club since April of last year.
In April 2015, Baseball America rated Fernandez the No. 3 prospect still playing in Cuba, behind Yulieski Gurriel and Alfredo Despaigne. Fernandez last played organized baseball in 2014, though was limited to 15 games due to a suspension for attempting to leave the island.
Over eight seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, Fernandez batted .319/.403/.423 with 105 doubles, six triples, 37 home runs and 318 RBI. The 28-year-old hit an impressive .524/.545/.667 in 21 at-bats for the Cuban national team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Fernandez primarily played second base during his career in Cuba, but also has some experience at third base. The long layoff led to concerns over Fernandez’s weight gain and thus decreased range at second base.
He’s started 14 games at third base in the Dominican Winter League, with minimal playing time at second base.
At present time the Dodgers have a clear need at second base and though a potential Brian Dozier trade may eventually come to fruition, Fernandez is widely considered Major-League ready.
However, the club has been mindful in not rushing along international prospects, placing an importance on acclimating them to all facets of with a Major League organization.