A's agree to deal with top international pitcher

January 16th, 2023

The A’s have emerged as a force on the international market in recent years and are adding a pair of top prospects.

Oakland has agreed to deals with right-hander Luis Morales, No. 5 on the Top 50 International Prospects list, and outfielder Darling Fernandez, ranked No. 40, the team announced on Monday. According to industry sources, Morales received a multi-million-dollar contract, while Fernandez signed for an estimated $1 million.

The A’s, who have a base signing pool of $6,366,900, announced the news along with 15 other international signings.

Back in Cuba, Morales was the best U-18 pitcher on the island, setting a record for strikeouts (161) in 82 2/3 innings between 2019 and 2020. He made his debut with Cuba’s Serie Nacional with Sancti Spiritus in 2021 and defected later in the year while playing for the Cuban U-23 team in Mexico.

Morales projects to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher as his fastball sits between 94-97, and he has emerging secondary pitches, including a slider, changeup and curveball. While in Mexico, Morales trained with Maels Rodríguez, a former Cuban National team pitcher and Olympian who is best known for his 100 mph fastball.

As for Fernandez, the left-handed hitting outfielder from the Dominican Republic has the potential to be a plus hitter and has a hit-first profile with developing power. Fernandez has an average arm and is an average runner, but he could improve in those areas as his body develops. He might be better suited for a corner outfield spot, but he has the capabilities to play all three positions.

Fernandez trains with Javier Rodriguez, a member of MLB’s Trainer Partnership Program.

An international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team between Jan. 15 and Dec. 15. He must turn 16 before he signs and be 17 before Sept. 1 the following year -- in practical terms, that means players born between Sept. 1, 2005, and Aug. 31, 2006, will be eligible to sign in the upcoming signing period. Players have to be registered with Major League Baseball in advance in order to be eligible to sign.

Teams are allowed to trade international bonus pool money starting Jan. 15.