Sources: Cuban RHP Hector Mendoza is a free agent & can sign. He’s expected to wait until his 23rd bday on 3/5 to sign as unrestricted FA.
Cuba is not known for having strong pitching prospects, but Mendoza is often regarded as one of the country’s best young arms. In April 2015, Ben Badler of Baseball America ranked Mendoza as the 12th best Cuban prospect. Badler wrote then that Mendoza possessed a fastball between 90-94 mph and displayed a solid-average curveball while working on a changeup.
Standing at 6-feet-3 inches tall and 193-pounds, Mendoza owns a 2.95 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 5.3 BB/9 ratios over 149.2 innings in Cuba and Japan.
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com notes that Mendoza is likely to wait until March 5 to sign a big league contract. The Cuban prospect turns 23 on that day, which will make him exempt from international bonus pools.
In order to be exempt from international bonus pools, a player must meet the age requirements, and must have played at least five seasons in a foreign professional league. Mendoza spent four seasons playing for La Isla de la Juventud in Serie Nacional, which is a year short of meeting that requirement.
However, the commissioner’s office determined that the parts of two seasons that Mendoza spent playing for the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan constitutes as another year of professional work for the Cuban prospect. With his experience in both foreign professional leagues, Mendoza was able to earn the exemption.
If Mendoza would have fallen under international bonus pools, he would have been ineligible to sign with a handful of teams, including the Yankees. Teams who exceeded their allowances over one of the the past two international signing periods wouldn’t have been able to sign Mendoza.
Mendoza has served as a closer for the majority of his professional career, but has the repertoire to possibly develop as a starting pitcher with a major league club. It’s likely that Mendoza will need some time in the minors to develop, as he has not had a full season of work since 2014-2015.
It will be will interesting to see if the Yankees show interest in Mendoza. Being that they have the ability to sign him, the organization might take a chance to see if he could one day be an impact arm at the big league level.