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Touted teenage Cuban outfielder Pino announces he's signing with Cardinals

Touted teenage Cuban outfielder Pino announces he's signing with Cardinals

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Cardinals spring training

St. Louis Cardinals early position players gather before an informal workout during St. Louis Cardinals spring training on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, in Jupiter, Fla. Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com

JUPITER, Fla. — While the signings on the first day of the international market tend to get all the attention, the period of time to sign amateur talent from abroad can last entire year, and sometimes the most significant signings are later.

An example is on the horizon for the Cardinals.

Cuban outfielder Luis Mario Pino, 16, revealed on social media that he had chosen the Cardinals from all suitors this spring. He did so at the end of a hype video often seen when high school players announce where they will be going to play college basketball or football. After a series of highlights, the camera pans to Pino tugging on a Cardinals cap, and he is later seen grinning in the hat in front of the Cardinals’ logo at the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic.

The Cardinals declined to confirm the signing. The club usually waits until a physical is completed to announce, per team policy. A source indicated the team is hopeful of an agreement in place.

ESPN, the first to share the hype video on social media, reported Pino will receive a bonus of $767,000.

The Cardinals previously signed 15 players in this 2020-21 class, headlined by shortstop Adari Grant, of the Bahamas, and catcher Leonardo Bernal, a star Panama’s national youth team. The Cardinals entered the signing period with the second-largest possible spending purse, at $5,899,600. They did not have a bonus of more than $1 million in the first round of signings, and the purposefully kept some cash available for a signing later in the spring, like Pino.

The righthanded hitting outfielder was declared a free agent in July, according to MLB.com. He had defected from Cuba to the Dominican the previous winter, and it was there that the former member of Cuba’s junior national team worked out for clubs. One showcase of his power brought at least eight teams, and ESPN reported at the time that he was likely to sign for a bonus of around $1 million and that teams like the White Sox and A’s were interested. The Cardinals were not mentioned.

The Cardinals, however, have been seeking a signing like Pino, from their successful pursuit of Cuban outfielder Jonatan Machado to their interest in Victor Victor Mesa before he signed with the Marlins.

Pino is from Matanzas, Cuba, where Mesa’s father, Cuba legend Victor Mesa, manages the team in Cuba’s major league.

The Cardinals have made signings late in the international window before by seeking out or sticking with players whose market did not develop as expected or found fewer teams interested as they had to spend their bonus pool elsewhere. The Cardinals were able to sign third baseman Malcom Nunez and outfielder Randy Arozarena with similar moves. Nunez is one of the Cardinals top young infield prospects, and Arozarena was an October sensation for the Tampa Bay Rays and is considered an early favorite for the AL Rookie of the Year.

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