While the international signing period opened January 15 with a bevy of tweets and reports about agreements and signings, the Mariners waited to get their players officially through extensive physicals and their contracts signed before making their first official announcement Friday.
The team released a tweet through their player development account, saying it signed three players.
- Starlin Aguilar, infielder
- Juan Cruz, outfielder
- Victor Labrada, outfielder
“International signings never get old,” said Frankie Thon Jr., the Mariners’ director of international signings. “It’s not only the pride splashed across everyone’s face, but also the collective sense of accomplishment when a young international player puts pen to paper. It’s quite humbling. It will always be a day filled with joy.”
Aguilar, 16, was rated as the No. 24 prospect in the international signing class by Baseball America. He is a left-handed hitting infielder who projects as a third baseman at the MLB level with the potential to hit in the middle of the order. He’s drawn early comparisons to Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, which is fitting since both players trained under the late Rudy Santin in the Dominican Republic. Santin also worked with Rays shortstop prospect Wander Franco, who is considered the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.
“Aguilar is someone we, as a department, have a lot of history and familiarity with. His offensive skill-set is impressive, relative to this age group,” Thon said. “He’s also taken pride in working on his body during the pandemic, which speaks to his makeup and work ethic. We believe in the potential impact with the bat, and are confident he’ll add immediate value to our system.”
He reportedly received a $1.5 million signing bonus from the Mariners.
At age 21, Labrada is older for the international class, but also typical of signings out of Cuba. His biggest tool is plus speed that some scouts consider near 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He can play all three outfield spots and has been compared to former Mariners outfielder Guillermo Heredia. He has an ultra-strong throwing arm that has been compared to former Mariners outfielder Leonys Martin.
Labrada played for Industriales in the Cuban Professional League as an 18-year-old, posting a .360/.429/.640 slash line in 33 games. In 28 plate appearances, he had nine hits (two doubles, a triple, a homer) with three RBI and two stolen bases.
After not being part of the 34-player list of Cuban players released to MLB for signing as part of an agreement with the U.S. and Cuba, later annulled by former President Donald Trump, Labrada defected to Haiti and then moved to the Dominican Republic to establish residency and sign with an MLB organization.
“Labrada is an older international amateur player out of Cuba,” Thon said. “He is a plus-athlete who can really run, along with advanced on-base skills and sneaky pop. Very similar size, build, and tool-set to our own Jonatan Clase. He’s shown signs of having that leadership gene and is very confident, brash and aggressive in between the lines.”
Per multiple reports, the Mariners gave Labrada a $350,000 signing bonus.
Cruz, 16, is a right-handed hitting outfielder also from the Dominican Republic.
Seattle expects to announce the signing of outfielder Gabriel Gonzalez next week. He is considered one of the top Venezuelan prospects in this international class and is rated as the No. 30 overall prospect by Baseball America.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.