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Epstein: International market is strong

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein thinks 2013 was a very good year for signing international players. The Cubs spent a great deal of money on foreign players and will continue to explore the amateur marketplace throughout the world.

Expect the Cubs to be proactive when Cuban defector Jose Dariel Abreu becomes available to American teams. Abreu, 26, is a right-handed power hitter who left Cuba last week and is reported to be living in Haiti.

“We really are in the mode as an organization in the talent-acquisition phase,” Epstein said. “Any way we can add talent to the organization -- through free agency, trade, any avenue of talent -- we will be interested.”

The Cubs went over their allotted international budget this year, adding Eloy Jimenez, Daniel Sanchez, and Erling Moreno. Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer know that MLB rules will be getting more stringent in the next few seasons on penalties and chose to invest now.

“This was the last year where the penalty for going over the allotted pool was (less),” he said. “We really liked the elite talent in this year’s class relative to the early returns on what next year’s class may be like. All in all we felt there was a bit of a loophole we could run through and exploit. Signing the two of the top position players plus a high-ranking pitcher made a lot of sense. We liked the larger investment types this year. We ended up signing a lot of players we did target.”

Epstein addressed the overall Cuban market, which has produced some impressive impact players the last few seasons. The Cubs signed 20-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler to a nine-year, $30 million contract in 2012,

“You have to make projections based on limited track records,” Epstein said. “A lot of times you’re investing in players who have been off from playing baseball for long periods of time. A lot of times you get in a workout situation which is not ideal. You should be able to see scouting reports and get some equivalents. Every player is different with how much exposure there has been.”

Soler, who suffered a stress fracture and was wearing a boot to protect his foot, is still not completely healed and will not return to the field until the Arizona Fall League starts in early October, according to Epstein.