Do you have Giants-are-interested-in-Cuban-player fatigue? I do, too. However, the need to be thorough outstrips the need to keep you from being annoyed. So we forge on, presenting a new Cuban player the Giants are interested in. This time it's Andy Ibanez, a 21-year-old middle infielder. According to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, the Giants are interested.
Teams interested: Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, D-backs, Brewers, Mariners, and Padres
Best fit: Yankees, Dodgers, Giants or Padres
Likely destination: Yankees, Dodgers, or Padres
Ibanez is written up in the above-linked article along with three other Cuban players, Yoan Moncada, Hector Olivera, and Yadier Alvarez. Try to guess the quote that matches with the player the Giants are linked to!
... (player) has been compared to a young Robinson Cano and recently to top Astros prospect Carlos Correa.
But scouts also rave about (player's) tools, his international experience and how he can help a Major League club right now.
He threw in front of 70 local scouts in the Dominican Republic earlier this month and starred in a large showcase with Olivera last week, prompting one high-ranking National League official to say (player) was the best 18-year-old pitcher he had ever seen.
(player) might not be the flashiest Cuban player on the market, but he's considered "a gamer" in international circles
The first one is Moncada, five-tool wunderkind. The second one is Olivera, the seasoned, professional hitter. The third one is Alvarez, hot pitching prospect the Dodgers are likely to get. The fourth one is Alvarez because of course it is. Start the offseason with dinger-fueled Yasmany Tomas rumors, end it with the scrappy Joe Panik of Cuban players.
Except, hang on, is that such a bad thing? While Panik isn't brought up (other than implicitly every time the term "gamer" is used), the following players were:
Names like Howie Kendrick, Omar Infante, Miguel Cairo and Placido Polanco are mentioned when discussing Ibanez's potential.
"This wine includes notes of plum, chocolate, Ayn Rand novel, and thyme." As in, boy, is Cairo out of place on that list. Kendrick, Infante, and Polanco have had similar, understated, productive careers. All three of them have made an All-Star team; all three of them were able to extract every last drop of value from a less-than-flashy skill set. Cairo was a standard utility player, occasionally helpful and occasionally harmful.
Think of that as the range of possibilities for Ibanez, then. In a worst-case scenario, Ibanez might not make the majors at all, or if he does, never seize a starting job or help much off the bench, like Cairo. In a best-case scenario, he helps a team at an important position for a long, long time. Baseball America still calls him one of the top international players on the market. Not every player has to be Yasiel Puig or Jose Abreu to be exciting. And it's not like Kendrick was garnering Rogers Hornsby comps when he was a 10th-round pick. If there's even part-time potential in Ibanez's bat, he has about 95 percent of most draftees beat.
The question is how much will a team pay for that kind of gamer upside. Because Ibanez is 21, teams will have to pay a penalty if his contract puts them over the bonus pool, so this isn't the kind of depth decision to take lightly. Ibanez this year means limited activity in the international market next year, too, so unless the Giants are planning on going goofy on July 2 this year, Ibanez might not be the kind of high-profile player worth the cap penalties.
His Serie Nacional stats from Baseball-Reference:
As with Olivera, Ibanez gets plaudits for walking more than he strikes out. Unlike Olivera, he's young and projectable, and he wouldn't necessarily force the Giants to put him on the 25-man roster right away. Both Sanchez and Baseball America suggest he's likely to start in the minors.
Consider me intrigued, though. Ibanez would instantly become one of the Giants' best prospects, if not the top overall prospect, and all he would take is the money the Giants weren't able to give away this offseason.
In conclusion, the Giants should sign Moncada, Olivera, Alvarez, and Ibanez, and they should introduce them all at a press conference in which they describe them as the "Bofa Four." If that's not likely, I'll learn to be satisfied with the quietly compelling Ibanez.