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Cards continue pipeline to Cuba, to ink Nunez

MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

The Cardinals have been active on the Cuban market in recent years and are once again tapping into talent from the island to bolster their Minor League system.

Cardinals assistant general manager Moises Rodriguez confirmed Monday that the club agreed to a deal with third baseman Malcom Nunez of Cuba, as well as Dominican right-hander Victor Villanueva, on the first day of the new international signing period.

The Cardinals have been active on the Cuban market in recent years and are once again tapping into talent from the island to bolster their Minor League system.

Cardinals assistant general manager Moises Rodriguez confirmed Monday that the club agreed to a deal with third baseman Malcom Nunez of Cuba, as well as Dominican right-hander Victor Villanueva, on the first day of the new international signing period.

:: 2018 International Signing Period ::

According to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, Nunez received a $300,000 bonus, which was the maximum that the Cardinals could offer. They, like the A's, Astros, Braves, Nationals, Padres, Reds and White Sox, are serving a penalty for previously exceeding their bonus pool and cannot sign any individual player for more than $300,000 during the current period. Villanueva agreed to a bonus well below that max amount.

Standing at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, Nunez, 17, has a strong body and is physically mature. He has exhibited strength in his swing and displays projectable hitting ability and power. Overall, he's known for his plate discipline and offensive instincts.

On defense, Nunez has an above-average arm, though he's not exceptionally agile. The Cardinals believe he has a shot at sticking at third base for the long term.

The Cardinals first started scouting Nunez when he was a 14 year old playing in Cuba's 15U Latin American Championship. The following year, Nunez starred in the 15U World Cup, leading the tournament in batting average (.667), on-base percentage (.750) and stolen bases (seven).

"We are pleased to sign a hitter of Malcom's caliber and viewed his bat among the best available," said Rodriguez, who served as the Cardinals' director of international operations before being promoted last September. "He has a track record of performing at a high level in both Cuban youth leagues and international competition, where he stood out among his peers. We thought he'd be a long shot given our signing limitations, but [director of international operations] Luis Morales, [Dominican Republic scouting supervisor] Angel Ovalles and local scouts did an excellent job of getting to know the player and putting us in position to sign him."

Nunez, who became eligible to sign during the 2017-2018 period, has been training in the Dominican Republic, which gave the Cardinals more opportunities to evaluate him and sell Nunez on their organization.

Both Nunez and Villanueva have already been assigned to the Cardinals' Dominican Summer League team. The Cardinals expect to finalize a number of additional international signings within the next two weeks.

The list of Cuban players to sign with the Cardinals during the last few years includes infielder Aledmys Diaz, who signed in 2014, outfielder Randy Arozarena, center fielder Jonatan Machado and right-handed pitcher Johan Oviedo, who all signed in 2016. Right-handed pitcher Hector Mendoza and outfielder Jose Adolis Garcia signed with the club last year.

According to the rules established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, clubs that received a Competitive Balance Pick in Round B of the MLB Draft received a pool of $6,025,400, while clubs like the Cardinals that received a Competitive Balance Pick in Round A of the Draft received a pool of $5,504,500. However, the Cardinals lost $500,000 for their signing of Greg Holland to drop their available pool to $5,004,500.

The club is allowed to trade as much of their international pool money as it would like but can only acquire 75 percent of a team's initial pool amount. Additionally, signing bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count toward the club's bonus pool, and foreign professional players who are at least 25 and have played in a foreign league for at least six seasons are also exempt.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals