Just like every other year, the 2008 July 2nd International Free Agent Signing Period was dominated by the Yankees, Red Sox and Mariners, baseball’s international superpowers.
Wait, no it wasn’t. In a surprising turn of events, the fiscally challenged A’s and Padres dominated the market, dropping nearly $10M combined on some of the very best players available. Oakland, as you already know, landed the top prize in Michel Inoa, while the Pads used their brand spankin’ new, $8.5M state-of-the-art Dominican academy to land five of the ten best ranked players, including three of the top six. Paul DePodesta is giddy, and rightfully so. (By the way, how awesome is that DePo blog? I wish the Yanks had something like that set up)
The Yanks, always a major factor on the international scene, have had five signings confirmed: shortstops Giancarlo Arias & Anderson Felix (both from the Dominican Republic), outfielders Yeico (15 minutes could save you 15% on your international free agents … okay, that was lame) Calderon (DR) & Ramon Flores (Venezuela), and catcher Jackson Valera (VZ). Saber Scouting says these players were “fringe seven figure talents” who apparently agreed to below market deals between $500,000 and $900,000.
It’s hard to blame the Yanks for focusing on hitters because they are generally safer bets than pitchers (especially when they’re that young), plus they have a nice track record of developing position players from the international scene, especially recently (Alfonso Soriano, Robbie Cano, Juan Rivera & Dioner Navarro come to mind). Flores appears to be the best prospect of the lot, ranking the 12th best Latino Prospect by ESPN. Here’s what they had to say about him:
Flores is a fast runner and an excellent defensive outfielder. This left-handed hitter has good mechanics at the plate, great control of the bat and power to the alleys. He can easily add 25 pounds to his frame (6-0, 160) and gain more power in the process.
Baseball America backs up that report and said he was likely to receive a bonus upwards of $800,000 (subscriber only). He was born in 1992. I feel ridiculously old.
The top overall prospect from the 2006 International Signing Period was Jesus Montero, and we all know what he’s up too. The best player the Yanks signed last year was outfielder Kelvin DeLeon, who is having himself an excellent season in the Dominican Summer League. The best pitcher they signed last year was Arodys “don’t call me Luis” Vizcaino, who has been brilliant with the Rookie level GCL Yanks (sample size warnings obviously apply). Hopefully all of these players continue to develop and be successful.