Other teams in MLB have signed high-priced Cuban free agents with success. Yasiel Puig with the Dodgers and Jose Abreu with the White Sox look to be working out great. The Red Sox hope for the same with the recently-signed outfielder Rusney Castillo. All of these players signed for tens of millions of dollars. When the Orioles get Cuban players, they go for the small-time players like Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez.
That's where Dan Duquette struck again on Friday, signing Cuban right-handed pitcher Lazaro Leyva. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports was the first to report the signing, which is for a bonus of $725,000. That's in line with the bonuses paid to Urrutia and Alvarez, who signed for $778,500 and $800,000, respectively.
Aside from the alliterative kind of name that gives everyone a leg up towards success in professional sports, Leyva also sports... actually, no one seems to know. Heyman offered no elaboration or anything other than the name, the dollar amount, and that he's "young". In fact, I'm only labeling him a right-handed pitcher based on this video, which is actually labeled as Lazaro Leyva Peralta. How many Lazaro Leyvas could be running around playing baseball? Maybe this isn't even the guy. It's a mystery to unravel! Those are fun.
The world of international signings is often a hazy one, and as news first unfolds that's in full display. How tall is he? How old is he? Is he a starter or a reliever? Why did the Orioles decide to sign him now? Maybe Dan Duquette will tell us eventually.
At least one Orioles beat writer is on the case:
Leyva deal pending physical and age identification process.— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) September 5, 2014
Assuming all of that goes through, Roch reports that Leyva will go to the Orioles fall instructional league in Sarasota.
People can't even agree on how to spell his name, which is probably a function of phone autocorrect rather than anything, but it's still funny in the way it adds to the general confusion:
RHP Lazaro Levry was a low 90s live and loose arm. Thin frame that could add with decent spin to think he could break something off.— Don Olsen (@Olsen_Don) September 5, 2014
The last time the Orioles tried to sign some surprise player who no one had ever heard of, they got themselves banned from scouting in South Korea and it turned out the player was nothing close to what the scout actually said. Sometimes things are hazy because of a lack of information and sometimes when information surfaces, it turns out to be pretty sketchy.
That's probably not the case here, but right now it's hard to know. The O's do have a track record of signing low-priced Cuban players who aren't very exciting to anyone else, stashing them in the minors and seeing what happens.
It's entirely possible that the reason that news is so scarce is because this was leaked to Heyman before the Orioles themselves were prepared to announce it and provide all of the relevant information. We all know the Orioles physical is more than just a formality, as is the age identification process when handling players from that part of the world.