TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays have signed 13 July 2 international free agents including two for the maximum $300,000 they can spend on a single player this season, shortstop Hugo Cardona and third baseman/outfielder Joseph Reyes.
Right-handed Roither Hernandez, who landed $150,000, and shortstop Kenny Mauricio, who gets $110,000, are the other notables among the group. Assistant general manager Andrew Tinnish, who oversees the club’s international scouting, said in an interview “I would expect us to have a handful more, we’re still finalizing some things.”
The Blue Jays are in the penalty this year for exceeding their international signing bonus pool last year to land Vladimir Guerrero Jr., for $3.9 million. This year, they have a pool of $2,100,200 to work with, but in being limited to a maximum of $300,000 per player, they were essentially cut off from the top-end of the market.
Their penalty ends signing period thanks to a trade the Blue Jays made as they signed Guerrero that sent prospects Chase Dejong and Tim Locastro to the Los Angeles Dodgers for three spending slots totalling $1,071,300. That reduced their overage enough to avoid a two-year spending penalty.
Cardona, a Venezuelan, attracted the Blue Jays with his premium speed.
“He’s an athletic shortstop, a real quick-twitch guy,” he said. “A lean wiry frame, he had pretty steady run times in the 6.4-6.5 range with some athleticism and projectable arm strength and hands. He needs a lot of work like a lot of young guys do, but he’s got a chance to stay at short with a plus arm and plus-plus-plus running. More of a line-drive approach over power but he’s got speed to complement that type of approach.”
Reyes, a native of the Dominican Republic who spent some time in New York and speaks good English, may outgrow third base but the Blue Jays want to give him a shot at the position.
“He’s 6-2, 6-3, 185, left-handed hitting infielder,” said Tinnish. “He shows an advanced approach at the plate, we saw him against good competition, pitchers throwing anywhere from 87-95 and he had good at-bats, he can recognize spin. There are a lot of ingredients from an offensive perspective that were interesting.”
Hernandez, an 18-year-old from the Dominican Republic, had been passed over in the past two international signing periods but the Blue Jays see some upside.
“He’s a big horse, six-foot-four, 200 pounds, we saw him about a week ago, he was 92-96, good heavy fastball, good delivery,” said Tinnish. “Secondary (stuff) needs work, but there’s some power to the slider, the changeup, like a lot of young kids, needs to be refined, but it’s a really good, heavy fastball and he’s a really, really good kid. There’s some good upside to him for sure.”