The Twins missed out on the chance to sign two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani out of Japan, despite being among the league leaders in available international free agency signing bonus cap space remaining.
After Ohtani narrowed down his list of suitors to 7 clubs that didn’t include the Twins, the next question was what they’d do with that roughly $3.25 million remaining. On Tuesday they got to work spending it.
The Twins made separate trades with the Angels and Mariners — two teams still in the running to sign Ohtani — that netted two prospects in excahnge for $2 million of that international signing bonus money.
They dealt $1 million of the signing bonus alotment to the Angels in exchange for outfielder Jacob Pearson, a third round pick from this year’s draft. Minnesota sent another $1 million of that signing bonus alotment to the Mariners for catcher David Banuelos, a fifth round pick.
Basically, the Twins “bought” a couple of prospects that were taken in the first five rounds of this year’s draft.
Pearson is a 19-year-old outfielder. He was drafted 85th overall, and batted .226/.302/.284 in 40 games in rookie ball. Even in a best case scenario, he’s likely years away from impacting the big league club.
Banuelos is a couple years older and is a catcher. He hit .236/.331/.394 in 36 games in A-ball (short season). He was taken in the fifth round. MLB.com ranked him the 10th best prospect in the Mariners system.
In each case we’re talking about fewer than 160 pro plate appearances, so it’s a little early to slap a label on these guys. Neither batting line jumps off the page, but they’re two players taken in the first 153 picks of the draft. Banuelos has a more impressive batting line, especially for a catcher at a more advanced level. With that said, though, Pearson was drafted out of high school, while Banuelos started his college career at Long Beach State before he was drafted this summer.
I don’t know immediately where these two prospects will fit into the Twins’ top-20. But consider that it was just 6 months ago that the Twins needed to have extensive notes on each player, as they considered selecting them in the June first-year player draft. So they likely had a draft grade on each of these guys and then got a couple dozen games of information — which they could use to adjust their beliefs in each player’s ability.
Even without knowing what these prospects will amount to, we can say that this is a creative way to use that money that otherwise would have been used for Ohtani. More or less, the Twins just bought two prospects — two guys selected in the first five rounds of the draft. That’s a good way to add a pair of good young players to a farm system. It’s not the windfall of landing a unicorn like Ohtani, but it’s a wise move to pivot and put that signing bonus alotment money to to good use. I think the Twins have done reasonably well so far with the hand they’ve been dealt. It’s a good call to target teams that suddenly have a high demand for international signing bonus cap space — the 7 that remain in pursuit of Ohtani — and get something in exchange for your excess.
They still have roughly $1.25 million left to spend, and they could use that on more trades, or they could use it to sign any of the internationall free agents that are back on the open market. The Braves had to release a number of prospects last week as punishment for violating rules, and several of those players are still looking for work. The Twins also voided the contract of Jelfry Marte — a shortstop from the Dominican Republic — after a reported issue with his vision during a physical. Marte is also a free agent, and could be re-signed by the Twins at a lesser price, if both sides were to agree. I wrote about those possibilties over the weekend.