Rockies sign top International Free Agents to mega deals

Rockies Academy in the Dominican Republic - courtesy of the Colorado Rockies

The July 2nd International Free Agent signing period opens today and the Rockies are expected to sign some of the top prospects available. Rockies free agents are expected to report to Colorado's new academy in the Dominican Republic.

Today marks the first day for teams to sign International Free Agents and the Rockies are expected to spend more than they have in recent years. The new Collective Bargaining agreement provides the Rockies with a budget of $4,213,800 to spend this season and Colorado is expected to make a splash in the July 2nd signing period. By the end of the day, the Rockies will have signed two of the top 20 Intrnational Free Agents on the market according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.

So far, the Rockies have agreed to terms with Colombian Erick Julio, a righthanded pitcher expected to be a middle of the rotation starter. Baseball America had Julio ranked as the No. 13 overall International Prospect going into this season and MLB.com had him as No. 14 overall. This is what MLB.com had to say about Julio's arsenal:

"His fastball has been clocked at 90 mph, and he has shown to have a good feel for his changeup while consistently working in the high-80s. The right-hander also throws a cut-fastball along with a sinker and has excelled at keeping the ball low in the strike zone while working both sides of the plate."

Shortstop Carlos Herrera is also expected to sign with the Rockies organization today. Baseball America ranked Herrera as No. 11 overall, while MLB.com had him lower at No. 15. Video of Herrera is available through his page on MLB.com. He has been compared to Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera in profile and MLB.com had this to say about the young Venezuelan:

"Herrera is a line-drive hitter and capable defender with the speed to be a very good baserunner and a threat on the bases. Scouts believe he's an interesting prospect because of his wiry body, tool set and makeup. He's also shown some athleticism and an ability to hit, but some evaluators wonder if his above-average speed is his only plus tool.

Scouts have also taken notice of his quick feet, efficient actions on defense and arm, leading many to believe he will stay at shortstop. However, there is some concern that he tends to pull the ball too often. That said, scouts also believe his flaws will be corrected once he receives regular instruction in an academy and will eventually blossom into the type of player who can hit near the top of a lineup."

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining agreement, the Rockies are allowed to spend up to their budget and also sign up to six players with bonuses of $10,000-$50,000 and an unlimited amount of signings below $10k. The Rockies have also been rumored to be trading some of their bonus money with the Chicago Cubs. A new provision in the agreement this year allows teams to trade bonus money, although terms of an agreement have not been outlined yet.

The record deal for a Rockies International Free Agent was $2.2 million paid to Taiwan pitcher Chin-Hui Tsao back in 1999. Recently the Rockies have spent $550,000 on Rosell Herrera, a shortstop currently playing for the Asheville Tourists and batting .354 with 14 home runs. They also spent $465,000 on pitcher Joel Paymps, $280,000 on shortstop Emerson Jimenez and $250,000 on pitcher Antonio Senzatala.

The Rockies have been very successful in the international market, signing the following players players who have contributed to their major league team: Jhoulys Chacin, Ubaldo Jimenez and Wilin Rosario. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez was originally signed as a free agent in this process, although he was signed well after the July 2nd period, so today is not the end all for prospects.

For more info on the International Signings follow John Sickels at Minor League Ball, Ben Badler at Baseball America, or Jesse Sanchez through MLB.com.

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