Astros agree to deal with Cuban lefty Perez

Astros agree to deal with Cuban lefty Perez

Houston's aggressive approach to the international market has reached an historic level.

On Monday, the Astros agreed to a $5.15 million deal with Cuban left-hander Cionel Perez, according to industry sources. When completed, the deal will mark the largest contract awarded to an international amateur prospect under the international signing guidelines in franchise history. The club has not confirmed the deal.

Perez, ranked No. 4 on MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospects list, was declared a free agent on Friday. The Orioles, Padres and Reds were among the teams with strong interest in the 20-year-old.

Not including Perez, the Astros have signed 19 prospects for an estimated $6.8 million, and they are already in the maximum penalty because they have exceeded their pool total -- $2,197,000 -- by more than 15 percent. The club will have to pay a 100 percent tax on the overage and will not be able to sign an international prospect under the international signing guidelines for more than $300,000 during the next two periods.

Houston will have to pay $16.5 million, a total that includes penalties, when Perez's deal is complete.

As for Perez, the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder has drawn some comparisons to Rangers lefty Cole Hamels when Hamels was at a similar stage in his development. Evaluators like Perez's athletic body, to which he has added about 25 pounds since leaving Cuba in May 2015.

Perez's fastball sits 92-95 mph, with projections he could at some point hover between 94-97. He also throws a slider and changeup. He has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter and the floor of a hard-throwing reliever. A native of Matanzas, Cuba, Perez went 7-2 with 75 strikeouts and 32 walks in 87 1/3 innings for Matanzas in 2014-15, his only two seasons with the club.

It's been quite a summer on the international front for the Astros.

In mid-July, the club signed Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel to a deal worth $47.5 million. Unlike Perez, the 32-year-old Gurriel did not have to sign under the international guidelines because of his age and experience. The Astros are expected to attend the showcase for Gurriel's younger brother, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., in Panama on Wednesday. Lourdes, who turns 23 in October, is a free agent and will be subject to international signing guidelines if he signs before his birthday.

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.