Baseball America, MLB.com, and FanGraphs all ranked Rojas as the 11th best prospect available during the 2017-18 international signing period, which opened July 2nd. Pretty rare that three scouting publications all agree on a ranking like that, especially beyond the top two or three prospects. Here’s a snippet of MLB.com’s scouting report:
Rojas succeeds in large part because of his quick hands and a good hitting approach from both sides of the plate. Scouts think he has a chance to hit for average and they love that he makes hard contact from both sides. In games, Rojas has displayed gap-to-gap power and there’s a chance he could hit home runs in the future … He makes all of the routine plays and has enough arm strength to keep him at the position now and in the future.
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement teams can trade for an additional 75% of their original bonus pool. I didn’t realize that. It used to be 50%. The Yankees made three separate trades for international bonus space this summer — they made two minor deals with the Orioles and also netted bonus money in the Sonny Gray trade — and have reportedly maxed out their bonus pool. They started at $4.75M and are now at $8.3125M.
Bonus information for so many international deals goes unreported, and based on what we know, the Yankees have now spent $4.45M of their $8.3125M bonus pool. It is extremely likely they’ve spent more than that. Not necessarily a lot more — the big bonuses are always reported, but the small six-figure deals add up — but more. And, according to Badler (subs. req’d), the Yankees are still connected to several top unsigned international amateurs:
The Rangers still appear to be the favorites for Patiño, and while there’s more uncertainty with Salinas and Cabello, several sources believe they could go to the Yankees, who have traded up for additional bonus pool space.
The Yankees are also the favorites to sign Venezuelan shortstop/center fielder Osleivis Basabe, the No. 46 prospect, though there is talk he might wait until 2018 to sign.
Salinas is Venezuelan outfielder Raimfer Salinas and Cabello is Venezuelan catcher Antonio Cabello. Salinas and Cabello are ranked among the top 15 international prospects by both Baseball America and MLB.com, so they’re not nobodies. If they sign, they’re getting a nice chunk of change. As for Basabe, I’m not sure why he’d wait to next year to sign, but hey, if he’s willing, that saves 2017-18 bonus space.
All things considered, the Yankees may end up spending north of $6M on international amateurs this signing period should the Salinas and Cabello signings happen. Probably more than $6M. That’s just me guesstimating. All those smaller signings add up, and as consensus top 15 prospects, Salinas and Cabello should be locks for mid-to-high six-figure bonuses, maybe even seven figures. For now, $6M to $6.5M is a guesstimate.
Every international signing these days is viewed through the Shohei Otani lens. Otani, should he come over to MLB this offseason, will be subject to the international hard cap because he is only 23. That $1M for Rojas means the Yankees have $1M less to offer Otani. That $8.3125M is a hard cap and it, along with whatever international signings the Yankees have made and will make, will determine how much they can offer Otani.
Based on my guesstimate, the Yankees would have approximately $2M for Otani after the season. Will it be enough? Who knows. This much is true: Otani won’t be coming over because he wants top dollar. Most teams have spent (or traded) most of their international bonus money, so while that $2M may not seem like much, few teams may be able to offer more. If Otani wanted to maximize his earning potential, he’d stay in Japan, where he’s making $2.3M this year and would make even more next year.
For now, the Yankees added another high-end international prospect in Rojas, and might add two more in Salinas and Cabello. Maybe even Basabe too. How that impacts a pursuit for Otani, assuming he comes to MLB this winter, remains to seen. I know this much: the Yankees aren’t stupid. They’re making these international signings with Otani in mind. It’s all part of the plan and hey, maybe they don’t like Otani and the plan is to not pursue him.