The Houston Astros were in a spot where they could have really used an infusion of talent at the minor league level. After a number of years picking low in the first round in addition to losing some draft picks, amassing prospects that can actually help Houston in the big leagues has been difficult. Complicating matters was the trade for Justin Verlander at the trade deadline last season which cost the Astros two of their best prospects in Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford and made their depth issues even worse.
Fortunately, an opportunity to help the cause came as international free agency opened up yesterday. The international market has traditionally been a great source of young talent across the league and, importantly, there is no draft position to worry about (at least not yet). If a team has the money in their international bonus pool, they can sign a guy assuming they are eligible to sign.
The Astros certainly took advantage of the opportunity once the international market opened up as the team came to terms with nine players on international signing day.
Astros sign nine players including highly touted Cuban outfielder
The Astros' international bonus pool came in at $5,925,000 for 2024 and the team decided to spread that money around to a few different guys instead of going after one of the top names on the market. The biggest name that they signed was Cuban outfielder Cesar Hernandez who the team signed for $1.7 million and who ranked among the top 50 players available. The 20 year old Hernandez is a tooled up center fielder that should hit for power from the left side in addition to having top of the scale speed.
Other notable bonuses the team handed out included Dominican infielder Franchely Silverio who got $600,000 as well as outfielder Amauri Ramirez who also got $600K. Cuban outfielder Luis Rives was also a significant signing as a 19 year old switch-hitter who impacts the ball regularly from both sides of the plate and who can play anywhere in the outfield with a cannon for an arm. Rives' bonus came in at $900,000.
For those hoping that the Astros would add some pitching help, the team did sign three pitchers in Angel Peralta, Cristian Navarro, and Kevin Santana. However, with Hernandez, Rives, Ramirez, and Silverio accounting for roughly $3.8 million of their $5.925 million bonus pool, that means that the remaining $2.1 million is divided up amongst five remaining players which makes it likely that the pitchers they signed aren't super highly regarded at this point. That said, their exact bonus amounts are not yet known to the public, so that could change.
That said, just because a guy gets a relatively small bonus does not mean that they couldn't develop into impact players as a lot can change with guys who are 16-17 years old. The Astros famously signed both Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier back in 2015 as international free agents for just $10,000 each and both guys have become mainstays in the Astros' rotation. On the hitting side, the Braves signed Ronald Acuna Jr. for just $100,000 and now he is one of the best players in all of baseball.