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Reds sign Cuban outfielder Perez

Reds sign Cuban outfielder Perez

CINCINNATI -- The Reds added another Cuban defector to the organization on Monday, when outfielder Felix Perez was signed to a Minor League contract.

However, the club was quick to distance the comparisons from the more high-profile signing of left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman in January. The 22-year-old Chapman's signing for $30.25 million over six years sent shockwaves through the league.

Perez, 25, received a signing bonus worth around $550,000. The Reds were impressed by his work ethic and baseball instincts. He bats and throws left-handed and can play all three outfield spots, but he hasn't been compared to a current Major Leaguer.

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"We're not thinking he's going to be a Hall of Famer, but we think he's an addition to the organization, a left-handed hitter that hopefully down the road will be of value to the organization," said Tony Arias, the Reds' director of Latin American scouting.

Once Perez receives his visa, he'll report to the club's player complex in Goodyear, Ariz., to get comfortable with U.S. baseball. The organization believes he's ready for Double-A because he's older, but will likely start him at the Class A level in either Dayton or Lynchburg.

"We're not thinking he's going to help us this year [in the Majors]. He hasn't been playing against high-level competition," Arias said.

"No matter what he does at Class A, he'll need to get to Double-A pretty quick. He needs that challenge," said Bill Bavasi, Reds vice president of scouting, player development and international operations.

Last May, Perez was all set to sign with the Yankees for $3.5 million until revelations surfaced that he lied about his age by claiming to be 20 years old. The deal was pulled when Major League Baseball suspended Perez. He became free to negotiate with any club once the suspension was lifted in October and was pursued by several teams, according to Reds general manager Walt Jocketty.

Since defecting from Cuba, Perez has been in the Dominican Republic, where he worked out several times at the Reds academy in Boca Chica for Arias and Dominican scouting coordinator Richard Jimenez. The league cleared Perez to sign a contract about 10 days ago.

"These two guys did a lot of hard work and signed him," Bavasi said. "He's got all five tools. Nothing jumps off the charts at you, but he's kind of a baseball rat. He loves to play. You can't underestimate this -- he's been there a long time going to workout after workout. He'll play in any game you ask him to. He'll work out any time you want him to. Most of the other guys going through the same thing are very calculating. They won't work out for you all the time. He'll do anything you want. Everything he does is hard."

Although Perez's addition doesn't match the scope of the Chapman signing, the Reds will use the pitcher as a blueprint. Like Chapman, who is now at Triple-A Louisville, Perez has never been exposed to the American way of life and will need to make cultural adjustments off the field besides playing baseball.

"I think we'll be more prepared after having some experience with Chapman," Arias said. "We'll be able to utilize our experience with Felix Perez."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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