White Sox to add 2 of top 15 international prospects

(Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Signings will be delayed because of COVID-19, but reports say the Chicago White Sox will land 2 top international prospects in Yoelqui Cespedes, Norge Vera.

Friday is the first day the new crop of international prospects can sign deals with Major League Baseball clubs and it is being widely reported the Chicago White Sox have landed two of the top prospects available this year in Cuban nationals Yoelqui Cespedes and Norge Vera.

Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reported Friday morning that the White Sox had received commitments from the pair, with the White Sox later posting on Twitter they had signed Cespedes to a contract.

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The agreement with Cespedes was initially reported last month, with the younger half-brother of two-time All-Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, currently a free agent himself.

The White Sox have the full $5,348,100 available for signing bonuses for the 2020-21 class of international prospects, with Sanchez reporting Cespedes will sign for a $2.05 million bonus and Vera will receive $1.5 million.

Cespedes is ranked No. 1 on MLB.com’s list of the top 30 international prospects, while Vera is at No. 15.

Chicago currently has four Cuban players on its 40-man roster: reigning American League Most Valuable Player Jose Abreu, Gold Glove winner Luis Robert, third baseman Yoan Moncada and catcher Yasmani Grandal. Of that quartet, Abreu and Robert were originally signed by the White Sox.

Abreu signed in October 2013 and jumped immediately into the middle of the batting order, earning Rookie of the Year honors as well as finishing fourth in the MVP voting in 2014.

Robert required a bit more time, signing in May 2017 after slashing .401/.526/.687 in the Cuban National Series as an 18-year-old.

He played for the White Sox affiliate in the Dominican Summer League in 2017 before playing at three levels in 2018 (Rookie, Low-A and High-A) and advancing from High-A to Triple-A in 2019. Robert was the starting center fielder for the Sox as a rookie last season.

Cespedes is a 23-year-old who defected from Cuba in 2019 before setting up residency in the Bahamas. He played three seasons for Granma in the Cuban National Series from 2015-17.

Vera is a 20-year-old who had agreed to terms almost a year ago, last February, defected at the same time as Cespedes. Both members of the Cuban National Team in June 2019, the pair defected while the team was playing in New York in the Can-Am League.

The son of Cuban pitching star Norge Luis Vera — yes, the pitcher who beat the Baltimore Orioles during a 1999 exhibition game — comes to organized baseball with a fastball that can touch 97 and has the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation starter, per Sanchez.

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If the financial figures being reported are correct, Chicago would still have nearly $1.8 million for the remainder of this signing period, which runs through Dec. 15, according to Sanchez.