Cubs' all-time best international signings, in 5 categories


The Cubs kicked off the international signing period by reportedly adding at least seven players by Friday afternoon, a group headlined by shortstop Cristian Hernandez.The signing period remains open this year until Dec. 15, thanks to a shift in the calendar brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.Usually running from July 2 to the following June 15, the international signing period is a crucial opportunity for clubs to add talent. Some of the biggest stars in MLB right now – take Fernando Tatís Jr. for example – have joined the league as international signees. And even if a prospect doesn’t develop into a star, just like in the MLB draft, he can become a trade asset or simply strengthen a team’s farm system.The Cubs too have added their share of franchise-altering players as international prospects. To give a sense of the paths some of these players have taken, here are the Cubs’ best international signings in five different categories:

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The Cubs signed Contreras, then a third baseman, out of Venezuela in 2009. But since then, he’s developed into an elite catcher. His bat has always been a strength, but this year the two-time All-Star was also a Gold Glove finalist.

“I think Wilson Contreras is one of the top handful of catchers in baseball,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said two weeks ago, squashing rumors that the Cubs were actively shopping the 28-year-old catcher. “We control him for two more years and I think that catching is a strength of this team as a result of having him on the roster.”

The fact that Contreras’ name has come up in so many rumors this offseason, with two years left on his contract, speaks to how much value the Cubs could get back in a potential trade. It’s more of a compliment than anything.

RELATED: Cubs sign top international shortstop prospect Hernandez







Big Z spent all but one season of his 12-year big-league career with the Cubs. The Venezuelan pitcher signed with the club as an amateur free agent in 1997 and made his major-league debut four years later.

In 319 appearances with the Cubs, Zambrano amassed a 3.60 ERA. The fan-favorite threw a no-hitter in 2008 and finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting three times. He was a three-time All-Star.

Zambrano also collected three Silver Slugger awards, making him the first Cubs pitcher to win the award. Today, he and Jake Arrieta are the only Cubs pitchers to ever have won a Silver Slugger Award, and Arrieta only did it once.

In the end, Zambrano’s split with the Cubs was contentious. After getting tossed from a game against the Braves in 2011, Zambrano said he was retiring – he had given up five home runs before throwing a pair of inside pitches to Chipper Jones, eliciting the ejection. Zambrano cleared out his locker and left the field. He later changed his mind about retiring, but the Cubs placed him on the disqualified list. They traded him to the Marlins that winter.



Castro enters his 12th season in the major leagues, now in his second year with the Nationals. The four-time All-Star has also played for the Marlins and Yankees, but the first six years of his big-league career (and three of those All-Star seasons) were in Chicago. The Cubs signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2006.

Among former Cubs international prospects who are still in the game, he's hard to beat. In 2010, Castro finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. The next year, he led the National League in hits (207) and became the youngest All-Star in Cubs history. In his time with the club, Castro hit .281/.321/.404.

The Cubs traded Castro to the Yankees ahead of the 2016 season. Later that season, the Cubs offered Adam Warren, who they got in return for Castro, back to the Yankees as part of the Aroldis Chapman trade.



Speaking of the Chapman trade, we turn to Torres, the highlight of the package the Yankees received in that deal.

Sending Torres, who at the time MLB Pipeline rated the No. 26 prospect in baseball, to New York was a high price to pay for a few months of Chapman. But the flame-throwing closer was the final piece the Cubs needed to win a World Series. And they just that.

Now, the Yankees’ middle infield duo is made up of two former Cubs prospects: Torres and DJ LeMahieu, who reportedly re-signed Friday on a six-year, $90 million deal.

The Chapman trade gained renewed relevance a couple weeks ago, when the Cubs traded Yu Darvish to the Padres for right-hander Zach Davies and three prospects, none of whom were among San Diego’s Top 10.

Asked where the Cubs’ Torres or Eloy Jimenez was in this trade, Hoyer said: “Every single year there's a higher value of prospects. As the industry lost $3 billion and as things contract, I do feel like, by definition, people are going to hold on tighter to those close-to-the-big leagues prospects.”


It’s too early to evaluate many of the Cubs’ more recent international signings. But the Cubs’ current No. 1 prospect, according to, is Marquez, a pitcher the Cubs signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.

Marquez made his major league debut in September. Though he struggled with control against the White Sox, his potential was clear as he hit triple-figures with his fastball.

“I think we all know his upside, his potential, the big fastball,” Cubs vice president of player development Matt Dorey said of Marquez’s 2020 development on the Cubs Talk Podcast last month, “but he really dug into his strength and conditioning, his nutrition, really refining his delivery.”


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