Today a 16-year-old kid is going to affect the fortunes of a major league baseball franchise. Cuban defector Lazarito is going to decide what team he’s going to play for for the next few years. His price range has been estimated anywhere between $15-$25 million. That’s a lot of money to throw at a ball player who has not played for over two years in an organized game.
As it stands right now, I do not expect the Cubs to be in the market for the youngster if the price ranges between $20 and $25 million. If it’s $15 million, that’s a different story. The Cubs could sign Lazarito for $15 million, then with their penalty, that results in a $30 million total price tag.
The Cubs can afford that money. Other teams cannot. This is why I’m thinking that there may be an international draft on the horizon. As more and more players are leaving Cuba, it appears the teams with the most money can sign the exorbitant price tags. With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire after this year, a draft is one way to deal with these run away prizes. Another way is to either have a hard cap on the amount of money you can spend on international free agents or a hard cap on the amount of money spent on one player without penalty.
I think Lazarito’s case is the perfect example of everything that is wrong with the international free-agent market. Here you have a 16-year-old kid whose last game was in a 14 and under league now set to make twice as much money as the number one draft pick in major league baseball at minimum.
Somewhere there has to be a balance to allow everyone to compete for his services. Sure, I would love for the Cubs to sign this kid, but imagine being the executive who signs him and he doesn’t pan out at that price. That would not be a fun meeting to sit in on.