Reviewing the Yanks’ 2012 international signings

From international signing to top prospect. (Matt Burton/MiLB.com)

From international signing to top prospect. (Matt Burton/MiLB.com)

The Yankees relied on the international market to build their farm system for decades. The ability to spend freely gave them a natural advantage because they had more money than everyone else, plus the global appeal of the Yankees brand practically sold itself. The team used the international market to produce scores of big leaguers and trade chips over the years.

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement, implemented last winter, changed that. Teams were given a $2.9M spending pool to spend internationally last summer, with rather harsh bonuses for exceeding that amount. The Rays became the first team to exceed the pool and get hit with penalties according to Ben Badler, so they won’t be allowed to sign any players for more than $250k this year. Clearly, MLB has achieved its goal of keeping big spenders like the Rays in check.

Anyway, the Yankees spent almost their entire $2.9M pool on three 16-year-olds — Venezuelan catcher Luis Torrens ($1.3M), Venezuelan outfielder Alex Palma ($800k), and Dominican shortstop Yancarlos Baez ($650k) — last July 2nd, the first day of the international signing period. You can read more about those three players right here. There’s a good chance Torrens will make his stateside debut with the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League affiliate this summer. Palma might as well.

The Yankees spent their last bit of pool money on 16-year-old Nicaraguan left-hander Corby McCoy, who signed for $150k. The team also used a $50k exemption — each club gets six — to sign 17-year-old Nicaraguan lefty Luis Garcia. McCoy is the better prospect, but he’s a pure projection guy at 6-foot-3 and 170 lbs. His fastball sits anywhere from the mid-80s to low-90s, and his breaking ball is very much a work in progress. Garcia’s another big guy — listed at 6-foot-4 and 185 lbs. — with mid-80s heat.

New York was able to do quite a bit of damage before the spending restrictions kicked in on July 2nd. The largest bonus they agreed to hand out went to 18-year-old Cuban left-hander Omar Luis Rodriguez. He signed for $4M, but back in December we heard the contract was still pending a visa and not yet official. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 205 lbs., Rodriguez has a five-pitch mix — 88-92 mph fastball and mid-70s curveball, plus a cutter, slider, and changeup — and throws plenty of strikes. He stands out for his poise on the mound and has a strong track record in international play.

Ben Badler (subs. req’d) says the Yankees signed two other Cubans as well. One was outfielder Adonis Garcia ($400k), who spent time with Double-A Trenton last year. You can read more about him right here. The other was 27-year-old outfielder Yeral Sanchez, whose $400k bonus did not count towards the spending pool because of his age. Badler says he “has a chiseled 6-foot-1 frame with an aggressive approach and solid power … is around an average runner with an arm that’s average to a tick above-average that should play in right field.”

Prior to July 2nd, the Yankees also signed 23-year-old Dominican right-hander Manolo Reyes ($600k) and 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Jorge Mateo ($250k) according to Badler. Reyes had previously signed with the Braves, but his contract was terminated and he was suspended for a year because of issues with his paperwork. He has a huge arm though, running his fastball into the mid-90s and touching 99. His breaking ball and splitter are inconsistent but have shown potential. Reyes is awaiting a visa before his contract can become official, so he hasn’t been able to pitch in official games and is very raw for his age.

Mateo is listed at 6-foot-0 and 185 lbs. He earns high grades for his speed and athleticism, which give him a chance to be an above-average defender at shortstop according to Badler. Mateo is a right-hander hitter with something resembling a plan at the plate, but he’s still learning how to handle breaking balls. Badler says his “athleticism would make him an exciting prospect if his bat develops” while noting that some actually preferred him over Baez.

Dominican lefty Carlos Diaz, 17, signed for $100k last March, then got hit with a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance. He is listed at 6-foot-2 and 170 lbs., and Badler says he has “an unconventional low three-quarters arm angle (that) gives him good armside life on his fastball, which parks in the high-80s and reaches 90-91.” His slider and overall control need work.

The Yankees used two of their other exemptions to sign 19-year-old Dominican right-hander Simon DeLaRosa ($50k) and 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Thairo Estrada ($49k). DeLaRosa pitches in the low-to-mid-90s with a promising curveball while Estrada has a line drive swing and fast-twitch athleticism. Badler calls both guys potential sleepers.

Starting this year the pool values will be scaled so that teams with bad records can spend more while teams with good records get to spend less. The Yankees finished with the third best record in baseball last season and are expected to have just $1.5-1.7M to spend internationally this year, which is nothing. Those six $50k exemptions are going to be important, they’re going to have to dig up some hidden gems with them.

  • Manny’s BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte’s Fibula)

    It really seems that this CBA was geared at ending the Yankees run at or near the top of the sport.

    I guess they want a system closer to the NFL with more parity.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      As Yankee fans, we may hate this, but I can understand why it would make sense for MLB as a whole (provided the teams decide to invest in the on-filed product and not line their pockets with profit, as some teams seem to have done to-date).

      • LK

        I actually don’t really agree that more parity = better for the sport. Soccer has probably the least parity of any sport and yet is the most popular in the world. Most NBA fans agree that the 1980s were the golden age, and the Lakers and Celtics won 8/10 titles that decade. In my opinion, the key to growing a sport is making it interesting enough where it’s worth following when your favorite team is bad.

        • http://twitter.com/#!/AngeloInNY Angelo

          No one said that parity is a good thing for the sport.

          • LK

            He seemed to be saying that it would make sense for MLB as a whole as long as teams re-invested the savings in their teams. What did you take that to mean?

          • MannyGeee

            Parity may or may not be good for the sport, but for the league (and the fans of non Yankees teams) parity is huge.

        • Laz

          Exactly. Yankees have a much larger fanbase than any other team, it is one of the teams that can draw international recognition.

        • 189,189,189,…dont you hate thatnumber


    • Now Batting

      How big is the gap in spending between the top and bottom teams? I could probably find it, but I’m on my phone and don’t have time right now. If it’s small, teams can’t compete on price. That would seem to give the Yankees a competitive advantage thanks to brand recognition.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        The worst team gets to spend $5M next year, the best team $1.4M or so.

        • Now Batting

          Thank you, sounds plenty big enough to matter.

      • Voice of Reason

        I wonder if brand recognition makes any difference at all. Playing in an organization with less spending power would probably improve your odds of reaching the major leagues, or at least hasten it.

  • Cris Pengiucci

    <strike.on-filed on-field

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Trying this again.

      on-filed on-field

  • JohnC

    This makes it all the more important that the Yanks be very agressive with those early picks in the June Draft since they most likely won’t be able to afford the top notch talent in the International market due to the spending restrictions

    • Preston

      I still think they will be able to afford top talent. The real loser here is international players. They won’t get 4 million dollar bonuses anymore. The Yankees will have to decide whether they want to allocate most of their money to one of the top guys or get 3-4 mid level guys or 10 lesser guys. But every team will have to make the same judgement. Some will choose to go all in on one or two guys and some will spread it around. Only time will tell which approach is more effective.

      • MannyGeee

        this. The player loses here.

  • Chip Off the Ol’Knoblauch

    Why do I get the sense that this will do more harm for baseball than good?

    • Laz

      Can see the draft restrictions really hurting. Some of the players are top notch athletes, and have the ability to become professionals in different sports.

      • Preston

        I think this is overblown, baseball is the only sport offering cash to high-school kids. Playing college football doesn’t pay anything, and the attrition rate is high. Basketball is the hardest sport to make it in, there are only 360 professional basketball players at any given time and baseball and basketball don’t have that many cross-over athletes anyways. High school guys who choose to go to college to play a different sport do so because they just don’t love baseball as much as the other sport, not because they weren’t offered enough money.

  • JohnC

    Hope it doesn’t take Omar Luis Rodriguez as long to get his visa as it took DePaula. Seems that it is taking forever already.

  • Gonzo

    I also want Manolo Reyes to make it for the Scarface quotes.

  • Bill

    They should sign the Cuban shortstop Diaz when he becomes available he wont cost against the cap and they need more shortstops in the system.

    • JohnC

      I wouold think they were not very impressed with him or they would have made an effort to sign him by now. The fact that he is still unsigned tells you that he is not exactly wowing teams.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        He’s in a fight over his correct age as well. The issue with him is that he’s actually younger than he says.

  • Fernando

    This actually hurts the Pirates, Rays, Royals and Rangers. They were much more aggressive spenders in the last few years while the Yankees were in the middle. That said, I hate the sliding scale and much prefer that teams have the same amount like they did last year.

    When there’s a lot of elite talent, I would have no issue going over like the Rays did. They are not going to spend big on free agency, so they need to build with the draft. And they lost their loophole with the elimination of the B rated free agent compensation. The Rays and Red Sox abused that and it was good to see that system fixed.

    If the Yankees are going to be under the luxury tax, I say use that money and go over on the international front. You don’t lose any pick or draft pool money…just the ability to sign guys for over a set amount. This will limit you the next year, but it’s a way you can flex financial muscle to get elite talent that year.

    • craig

      I think the CBA has penalties for going over on international signings that the team would forfeit draft picks, but I could be wrong.

      • Preston

        The penalty is you lose the cap money the next year, and can’t sign any player for more than a minimal dollar amount. I wouldn’t do that often. But for an elite once every five year kind of talent I would.

        • Jerkface

          You don’t lose cap money, you just lose the ability to offer contracts over a set amount. If the Yankees pool is 1.5 million for IFA, and they went over it the previous year, then they could still offer as many 250k contracts as would fit in 1.5 mil.

          However, if a draft is implemented then you lose draft picks. And for the July 2 2014 – July 1 2015 period, if there is no draft, then you actually lose the ability to offer more than 300k for the next *2* international period. So, really lame.

      • Jerkface

        You are wrong. There is no draft pick penalty associated with the international free agency rules. Only a tax on the amount spent and a reduction in max bonus per contract.

  • chris

    If the Yankee brand sold itself, and an upper level player has 2 offers: both the same amount of money but one is Tampa and one is New York you think anyone will choose Tampa?

    Baseball needs to be careful about what it is wishing for. It basically is forcing teams to go through rebuilding years which can realy hurt teams like the Phillies, Mets and Rangers. The Yanks will be fine regardless. We will always go out to see the team. But those middle market teams who max their payroll because they are drawing 99-100% capacity can’t sustain winning because the cards are stacked against long term success.

    • MannyGeee

      I think Tampa is a bad example, because the city of Tampa itself has great International appeal (in the Latin American community).

      That said, you change that for Kansas City or Cleveland, and I could cosign on your point.

  • https://twitter.com/adamhobson Adam Hobson

    Honestly I think the Rays have a good strategy, spend high one year and take the next year off. It’s actually easier for a winning team to take this strategy as their pool for next year is lower anyway, so there’s less of an opportunity loss. Just make sure you can get more talent in the year you go over, then you would have been able to in two years following the caps.

    I don’t think the CBA changes were aimed at the Yankees. They hurt teams like the Rays far more (or at least teams like the Rays who would follow the caps). If you are going to win, the one way left to really ensure a talent flow is free agency. It just seems like the Yankee can’t take advantage of it because they are trying to be cheap now. But in fact, the new CBA gives an advantage to the large market teams to keep winning, as gives them an excuse to ignore their farm systems and just buy players.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      The problem with that strategy is that you’re limiting yourself to half the talent pool. I’d rather be able to spend every year.

      • https://twitter.com/adamhobson Adam Hobson

        But if you stick to the spending restrictions, then you are limiting yourself to less than half the talent pool. Say you’re a winning team with a talent pool of $2 million next year, out of a total pool of say $90 million (I think that’s around right, $2.9 per team this year x 30 teams and a little for inflation). If talent gets distributed to dollar perfectly (it doesn’t, but let’s say it does to make the numbers easy), then you only can buy to 1/45th of the talent pool. Access means nothing, if you can’t buy.

        So ignore the restrictions for one year and buy $10 million worth of talent, and then lose out on $2 million the next year. That’s still $10 million in tallent over two years by breaking the rules rather than $4 million by following them. It’ll cost you an extra $8 million, but that’s still cheaper than buying wins in free agency.

        Of course this makes the most sense if you are willing to blow away the spending restrictions, not just go a few $100k over like the Rays did.

        • Jerkface

          I was hugely in favor of this strategy from the Yankees perspective, in strong classes they should go over by a lot, but the MLB fucking sucks and I just read the CBA portion regarding this and if there is no international draft by 2014 then going over by 15% in the 2014-2015 period means you are limited to 300k contracts for 2 entire signing periods.

          I really hate the new CBA.

  • chris

    The Yankees could easily tell MLB to shove the new CBA where the sun doesn’t shine and continue on the mid 2000′s path. To hell with the draft and build the team from outside. Strike gold every once and a while with someone like Cano or Gardner but for the most part go over the tax and consider it a cost of doing business. The yanks probably STILL would make more money than everyone else.

    • 189,189,189,…dont you hate thatnumber

      that is what they should but will not do…

  • 189,189,189,…dont you hate thatnumber

    The yankees had a chance to go crazy before the contract took effect…I HAVE NO INTEREST IN A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD….I just want to win.

  • 189,189,189,…dont you hate thatnumber

    The way to beat this all is just have a 300 million dollar payroll and pay the tax….at 1500 a ticket and the yes deal the yanks can afford it…..

    • Robinson Tilapia

      You’ll be thrilled when that 300 million payroll still loses to the San Francisco Giants in the WS.

      • 189,189,189,…dont you hate thatnumber

        with that payroll we might have a chance to play them….with this roster….none

  • TomH

    What is the negotiating process for these changes? Who sits around with whom to work out these restrictions? Are all the owners present, or are they all represented?

    These changes are clearly directed at the Yankees, first and foremost. I agree with the poster who made the obvious point that “parity” is the goal. I very much doubt the assumption that baseball will benefit from this. My guess is that parity will not so much make the game “like” the NFL–there are major cultural changes that led to the rise of the NFL–but, rather, will contribute to its increasing “regionalization.” Were there to be successful “parity,” with Atlanta, the Yankees, the Dodgers, et al., the tv ratings will continue to decline. Baseball overdosing–all those postseason games–is already a problem; parity will add the tedium of Pittsburgh vs. KC., etc.

    Really, to get at why the NFL rose to prominence requires far more than reaching for mere “parity.” Something began to change in American society in the late 50s and early 60s, some speeding up of tempo and other elements that made baseball began to seem antiquated by comparison. I couldn’t begin to do justice to those “other” elements, but there was a cultural change in those years, in the music, in the tastes, that made people thrill more to the NFL than to MLB. Parity is way too superficial and trivial to do justice to that change.