The international free agent signing period begins on Saturday, January 15th running through December 15th. Once known as J2 (July 2nd) the COVID-19 pandemic brought on a delay in the international signing period. The international signing period was effectively pushed back six months, adding fuel to speculation that MLB will replace the free agent period with an international draft. Recently, Fangraphs Eric Longenhagen speculated that MLB could implement an international draft as soon as 2023-2024.

According to Baseball America, the Cleveland Guardians will be one of eight teams (those with Competitive Balance Round B Selections in the 2021 MLB Draft) to receive a $6,262,600 pool allotment. As per agreement with MLB Player’s Association, teams cannot trade away their allotted pool space as in previous years. Cleveland is currently rumored to sign around 15 international free agents, with a few additions likely.

Two 2022 Cleveland Guardians International Free Agent to Know

OF Jaison Chourio

Height: 6’2
Weight: 165

B/T: S/R

Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 20; Baseball America – 26

A native of Venezuela, Chourio will receive a seven-figure signing bonus, he is the brother of Brewers shortstop prospect Jackson Chourio. The switch-hitting outfielder currently plays center but displays enough arm to handle right field. His future position will be determined by his physical maturation and development. 

C – Victor Izturis

Height: 5’8
Weight: 170

B/T: L/R

Rankings: MLB Pipeline – 40; Baseball America – 41

The young backstop and fellow Venezuelan is the nephew of Maicer and Cesar Izturis. His MLB bloodlines have afforded him a high baseball IQ with advanced knowledge of the intricacies of the game. Another one of the Guardians’ larger pickups, Izturis, will receive a seven-figure signing bonus. He reportedly shows an advanced approach at the plate and quality receiving skills.

Other notable signings:

Yanki Batista- SS Dominican Republic

Yorfran John- SS Venezuela

Alberto Mendez- SS Venezuela

Nomar Velasquez- SS Venezuela

Moises Molero- OF Venezuela

Jose Cedeno- C Venezuela

Looking toward 2023:

SS – Welbyn Francisca

Height: 5’9
Weight: 165

B/T: S/R

The talented shortstop is currently the 17th highest ranked international free agent on Fangraphs board. While nothing will be official for another year, Francisca is expected to sign with the Guardians when the 2022 International period opens on January 15, 2023. The speedy middle infielder has a reputation for showing advanced bat-to-ball skills and a keen eye at the dish. He is expected to command a seven-figure signing bonus.

Recent notable Cleveland Guardians international free agent signings:

OF George Valera – 2017 ($1.3 mil)

INF Aaron Bracho – 2017 ($1.5 mil)

INF Jhonkensy Noel – 2017 ($100,000)

INF Jose Tena – 2017 ($400,000)

OF Alexfri Planez – 2017 ($400,000)

INF Gabriel Rodriguez – 2018 ($2.1 mil)

INF Junior Sanquintin – 2018 ($1.25 mil)

INF Angel Martinez – 2018 ($500,000)

RHP Carlos Vargas – 2016 ($275,000)

Other notable organizational international free agent signings:

INF Jose Ramirez – 2011 ($50,000)

RHP Roberto Hernandez aka Fausto Carmona – 2000 (Unknown)

RHP Bartolo Colon – 1993 (Unknown)

RHP Jose Mesa – Toronto Blue jays – 1981 (Unknown)

2B Carlos Baerga – San Diego Padres – 1985 (Unknown)

Random notes and thoughts:

The Guardians farm system is littered with international talent up and down the system, with as much as a quarter of their top 60 prospects originally signing during the international free agent signing period. Expect the Guardians to maintain their business as usual approach to landing international free agents. The club’s typical process leads to a position player-heavy approach. After all, position players are widely considered the safest route in player acquisition. 

The high dollar “bonus babies” as they have become known don’t always represent the best value. Jose Ramirez is a perfect example of this, receiving a $50,000 signing bonus in 2009. More recently, top-five prospect Brayan Rocchio received a $125,000 signing bonus in 2017. With this in mind, Cleveland typically approaches the international signing period with caution, focusing more on the mid-tier type free agents. It’s a spread the wealth approach, bringing in both quality and quantity instead of placing all their eggs in one basket. Further proof of Cleveland’s risk-averse approach is the position player heavy classes.

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