2013 International Free Agency: Jen-Ho Tseng, Leandro Linares, and an Update on the Budget

Jen+Ho+TsengJen-Ho Tseng Interest?

Today Jesse Sanchez reported that the Cubs are the favorite to acquire Taiwanese right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng. The Twins have previously been reported as interested. Tseng was at one point was considered the best player in this class, according to BA, but his stuff seems to have regressed somewhat, and they ended up ranking him at #23 (TAM #12). My understanding is that scouts never like to bet on stuff coming back.

Note that at the rumored price ($1.5 million), it would be impossible for the Cubs acquire enough space to sign Tseng and Eloy Jimenez and avoid penalties for next season's acquisitions. Some have taken the Cubs' interest in Tseng as proof that the Cubs have intended to overspend all along. As you might imagine, I'm still not buying it.* Eloy has yet to sign, which points to the Cubs still pursuing additional slot space. Meanwhile, the Cubs traded Scott Hairston to the Nationals without getting slot money in return, instead opting for righty Ivan Pineyro. This seems like a nice return on Hairston, and could be an indicator that the price on slot money was too high. In general, if the cost of acquiring space is such that it would prevent moves like that one, I'm all for the Cubs overspending their space, though the miscalculation that led to this point is lamentable.

*Any scenario from here on out in which they acquire enough pool space to avoid penalites before signing players that result in going over the limits once again will make me concede defeat.

I should note that the Cubs could back out on Eloy Jimenez and simply sign Tseng to avoid penalties altogether. I think that's a pretty bad idea for a team trying to establish a relationships in the Dominican Republic, to say nothing of Eloy's potential.

Encarnacion, Molina,… Linares?

If the Cubs do opt for a high spending position, who are some other names we could see them pursue? Phil Rogers brought up Luis Encarnacion and Leonardo Molina. I don't think either is all that realistic. Neither is yet sixteen, which is likely the reason they have yet to sign, as Molina has been connected to the Yanks and Encarnacion to the Phils and Red Sox. If the Cubs pursue them, I think they would have the same difficulties as the Rangers did with Eloy Jimenez. Agreements tend to follow relationships in this arena, and both come before contracts. Most of the big names already have agreements, official or otherwise. 

Tseng is a definite possibility, as he was seen as a question mark heading into the signing period. A name out of left field to keep in mind is Leandro Linares, who recently defected from Cuba. He is only 19, and thus will be subject to pool restrictions. I haven't been able to find any stats, meaning he may not have yet pitched in la Serie Nacional and you'll get no defector profile from me.

Budget Update

Jesse Sanchez is sticking by his report that Erling Moreno actually signed for $650k, rather than the previously reported $800k. This means that the Cubs currently have $2.33 million remaining in pool space. Given that the agreement with Eloy is for $2.81 million, the Cubs need to acquire around $461k in slots to stay within the constraints of the 5% overage. However, this new adjusted price puts them below the 15% limit, and in the 10-15% penalty range. This means that if they simply sign Eloy and call it quits, they could sign players for up to $500k next season, rather than $250k at the higher penalty level. This seems pretty significant to me, though the Cubs clearly have a desire for the top talent and would prefer to go into the next period unrestricted. The difference in penalty levels may not move the needle for the org in their decision to pursue Tseng et al., but I will be interested to see whether it does.

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