A bit of unexpected news from Baseball America's Ben Badler this afternoon. Ahead of him acquiring a visa to play in the states, the Rays have signed 27-year old Cuban outfielder Dayron Varona to a minor league deal.
One would think his age and prospect status keep him separate from international spending limit penalties. Here's BA's write up:
Tampa Bay has signed 27-year-old Dayron Varona, an athletic Cuban outfielder, to a minor league contract. Varona is exempt from the international bonus pools, and while the signing bonus was not immediately available, it wasn't expected to be a high-level investment.
At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Varona's best tools are in the field, where he has above-average speed and arm strength with the ability to play all three outfield spots. While playing for Camaguey in Cuba, Varona's best season came in 2012-13, when he batted .343/.406/.482 with 20 walks, 37 strikeouts and six home runs in 75 games. He also won a gold glove award that year.
He's got the defense to be a fourth outfielder, which is the plus, but reports don't peg him for a starting role.
Keith Law agreed on the defense, but says he didn't see enough offense to say much about the bat:
Varona showed some above-average tools and looks like he could play any of the three outfield positions, but I didn't see quite enough during his batting practice (some against live pitching) to tell you if he'll hit enough to be a major league regular.
Law grades the arm on Varona at about 65 with possibility of being 70-grade, which is just fun to think about. You can read Law's full report on the look of his right handed swing.
Picking Varona on a minor league deal is great value for the Rays. On the free-agent market, he's probably worth something, but his inexperience fell in the Rays' favor. Law pegged Varona for a major league deal around $3.5M.