Baseball America’s Int’l Free Agency Preview

The Yankees and pitches in the strike zone
2012 Draft: Daniel Robertson
$80k in 2004. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The amateur draft begins in less than two weeks and a few weeks after that, the international signing period will open on July 2nd. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement limits each team to $2.9M in international spending this summer, though clubs can exceed that amount if they’re willing to deal with the harsh penalties. Start next season, international spending restrictions will be on a sliding scale based on winning percentage. The more you win, the less you have to spend.

The very best prospect on the international market this summer is Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, who still has yet to establish residency outside of Cuba and be declared a free agent by MLB. He will be subject to the spending restrictions come July 2nd but can sign for any amount prior to that date, so he better hope they speed up the process. The kid is looking at a bonus in the $20M range at the moment and will get maybe one-tenth of that after July 2nd.

Baseball America’s Ben Badler previewed this summer market today (subs. req’d), looking at nine non-Soler players who are among the best prospects available. Two of the nine have been connected to the Yankees…

Luis Torrens, C, Venezuela (video)
A former shortstop and third baseman, the 6-foot-0, 170 lbs. Torrens is rough behind the plate because of his inexperience. He has the athleticism and tools and stick at catcher, though his right-handed bat is the main attraction. Torrens has doubles power to all fields and figures to start driving balls over the fence as he matures, and his approach is very advanced for a kid who turned 16 just three weeks ago. He trains with and is represented by Carlos Rios, the Yankees’ former director of international scouting, and Badler says New York is the club “most strongly linked” to Torrens at the moment.

Alex Palma, OF, Venezuela (video)
One of the most advanced hitters in this year’s international class, Palma has a right-handed swing geared for hard contact. He’s hit high-quality pitching in showcase events but like everyone else his age, he’s still developing his power stroke. Palma is listed at 6-foot-0 and 200 lbs. and is limited to a corner outfield spot because he’s not the best runner in the world. He does have an arm suited for right field, however. Badler says the Yankees are “making the strongest push” to sign Palma, and his bonus could approach seven figures.

Other top prospects include Venezuelan SS/OF Franklin Barreto (linked to Blue Jays), Dominican OF Gustavo Cabrera (Royals), Venezuelan LHP Jose Castillo (Padres and Red Sox), Venezuelan SS Luis Castro (Rockies), Brazilian LHP Luiz Gohara (Mariners), Venezuelan RHP Jose Mujica (Jays), and Dominican SS Amed Rosario (no team). Seems like a pretty strong year for Venezuela.

Earlier this month Badler speculated about some ways teams could essentially circumvent the spending limitations this summer, including shady under-the-table deals. The Yankees spent just about $3M on international players last summer — or what they gave Gary Sanchez alone a few years ago — but have historically been among the biggest spenders in Latin America. Every team is on an even playing field now, so it’s going to come down to scouting ability. Hopefully the lure of the Yankees brand helps as well.

The Yankees and pitches in the strike zone
2012 Draft: Daniel Robertson
  • A.D.

    So basically the Yanks could go Palma, Torrens, and then random cheapo signings

    • Mike Axisa

      That’s basically all they’ll be able to do with the spending limits.

  • Gonzo

    So the Yankees are keeping their record artificially low so they can spend more in IFA in 2013?

  • JohnC

    I heard alot of good things about Barreto. Was hoping they would be linked to him.

  • JohnC


    How bout that kid from Taiwan they nearly signed last year, Tzu-Wei Lin? Badler mention him at all?

    • Mike Axisa

      Nothing in the article, haven’t heard anything otherwise.

    • Smart Guy

      he signed with the redsox!

  • Andrew Brotherton

    I’d love to see Palma, Torrens, and Soler if they lift the restrictions on Soler before the new spending caps go in place. I’d love to see us get a shortstop and some more pitchers as well in this class.

    • JohnC

      Torrens sounds like another Gary Sanchez.

  • Henry

    I can’t help but to think of some conspiracy theory that they are delaying Soler’s process so that he will fall under the new Collective Bargaining restrictions. Something fishy, imho, is going on.

    • Mike Axisa

      It’s possible. Establishing residency is done independently of MLB I believe, and so far he hasn’t even done that yet.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    I should like to say that you, Mike Axisa are a very prolific writer indeed. I don’t know how you have time for so many articles, but it is surely appreciated by fanatics like myself. Thanks.

    • Havok9120

      This all day.

  • toad

    A question for any lawyers around here.

    What happens if the new CBA conflicts with anti-trust or similar law in a foreign country? Suppose a player in Venzuela, or Taiwan, or wherever, brings a lawsuit alleging illegal – in that country – collusion among the teams to hold down the size of contracts. Why wouldn’t he win – assuming of course relevant laws exist in that country?

    • LiterallyFigurative

      Under who’s jurisdiction would such a case fall?

      Since any player who signs would (in all likelyhood) have to join the players association, they would be bound by the CBA that the league and union agreed to.

      The laws of another country have little to no bearing on the economic activities of an American or Canadian company performing it’s business in America and Canada.

      And given the anti-trust exemption that sport leagues have, how would you legally argue that they are unfairly holding the salaries down?

      • Havok9120

        His point was that not all countries embrace that exemption when it isn’t in their best interests.

        That said, you’re absolutely correct. A foreign court has no jurisdiction over the MLB. I doubt MLB would agree to show up in the first place (heck, the State Department probably wouldn’t let them anyway), which would leave another country having to try the MLB in absentia and/or ordering MLB out of the country.

        All in all, it’d be a huge hassle that would hurt the country doing it more than it would the MLB’s talent pool. You’d just have another Cuba with all its baseball players defecting.

      • toad

        I guess it would fall under the jurisdiction of the player’s home country. Suppose he didn’t sign, hence was not a member of the PA. And note that the team is carrying out its activities – signing players – not in the US or Canada but in Venezuela or wherever.

        Is it not true that, in general, American companies doing business abroad are bound by the laws of the host country? So if MLB, or the New York Yankees, want to do business in a foreign country it seems to me that they are bound by the laws of that country. US anti-trust exemptions don’t count.