2017 International Signings: Periera, Rojas, Chirinos, Garcia

The Yankees' academy in the Dominican Republic. (Groundskeeper.MLBlogs.com)
The Yankees’ academy in the Dominican Republic. (Groundskeeper.MLBlogs.com)

The 2017-18 international signing period opened this past Sunday, on July 2nd as always, and for the first time in three years, the Yankees are not hamstrung by the penalties associated with their 2014-15 signing period spending spree. They were limited to a $300,000 bonus maximum the last two signing periods, which took them out of play for the top international prospects.

Although they are no longer held back by individual bonus limits, the Yankees are now dealing with the international free agency hard cap. Every team is. MLB and the MLBPA agreed to a hard spending cap as part of the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Yankees have $4.75M to spend during the 2017-18 signing period. Some teams have $5.25M and others have $5.75M. It depends on market size and things like that.

The Yankees did, however, acquire more international spending money over the weekend. They shipped minor league righty Matt Wotherspoon to the Orioles for an undisclosed amount of bonus money. Teams can only acquire 50% of their original cap, so all we know is the Yankees did not receive more than $2.375M from the O’s. Chances are they acquired a smaller sum.

Now that they can once again be major players internationally — at least as much as their bonus pool allows — the Yankees dove in and signed several prospects since the open the signing period Sunday. More signings will trickle in over the next few weeks and months, though just about all of the top prospects sign on July 2nd. Here’s a recap of the Yankees’ latest international haul.

The Top Prospect: OF Everson Pereira

If Pereira’s name sounds familiar, it’s because the Yankees have been linked to him for some time now. We first heard about him back in February. Most of these international prospects agree to terms months in advance — sometimes even years in advance — even though those agreements are technically against the rules. MLB doesn’t enforce them though.

Pereira, a 16-year-old outfielder from Venezuela, received a $1.5M bonus according to Jesse Sanchez. Both Baseball America and MLB.com ranked him as the fourth best prospect in the international class while FanGraphs ranked him tenth. Here is a piece of MLB.com’s scouting report:

Scouts love this teenager from Venezuela. Pereira is a true center fielder, and if all goes according to plan, that’s the position he will play in the big leagues one day. He’s considered a plus defender and a plus runner … He has also shown good instincts and a good feel for the game on both sides of the ball. On offense, Pereira has displayed a good line-drive swing and has a chance to hit for average with some power in the future.

The Baseball America (subs. req’d) scouting report says Pereira has “one of the most balanced, well-rounded skill sets in the 2017 class, with a promising combination of tools and game awareness.” Once upon a time the Yankees were all about loud tools, and they still are, for sure. But it seems lately they’ve been emphasizing baseball instincts and things like that.

The Expected Signing: SS Ronny Rojas

Rojas is a shortstop from the Dominican Republic, and while he has not signed with the Yankees, Ben Badler says he expects it to happen. Why hasn’t Rojas signed yet? Because he’s still only 15. He has to wait until his 16th birthday on August 23rd to sign his first pro contract. The Yankees have been connected to Rojas for a while and it’s believed the two sides already have an agreement in place. They’re just waiting for his 16th birthday.

Baseball America, MLB.com, and FanGraphs all ranked Rojas as the 11th best prospect in this international class. Kinda weird they all agree like that. That rarely happens. Anyway, 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.

Both the MLB.com and Baseball America scouting reports tout Rojas as one of the best bats available this signing period. A switch-hitter with good offensive potential from both sides of the plate and a chance to stay on the middle infield? Sign me up.

The Second Best Prospect (For Now): SS Roberto Chirinos

Until Rojas signs, the second best prospect the Yankees landed this signing period is 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Roberto Chirinos. Sanchez says Chirinos received a $900,000 bonus. MLB.com ranks Chirinos has the 16th best prospect in the signing class while Baseball America ranks him 20th and FanGraphs ranks him 25th. Here is a piece of MLB.com’s scouting report:

A converted outfielder, Chirinos has all of the tools to stay at shortstop, specifically, a plus arm and good actions on defense. He makes all of the routine plays and has a feel for playing in the middle of the infield despite less than two years at the position. He has also impressed scouts with his quick hands and makeup … At the plate, Chirinos makes hard contact to all fields and has shown good bat speed.

Interestingly enough, both the MLB.com and Baseball America scouting reports identify Chirinos as a candidate to convert to catcher given his tools and baseball aptitude. He’s also a very high-end energy guy. The Yankees have had a lot of success converting infielders into catchers — Jorge Posada, Francisco Cervelli, and John Ryan Murphy are all converted infielders, and Donny Sands is attempting to make the transition now — and I bet they try it again with Chirinos.

Miscellaneous Signings

Garcia. (@BaseballAmerica)
Garcia. (@BaseballAmerica)

Not every international signing is a top prospect, of course. The Yankees inked Venezuelan outfielder Anthony Garcia to a $450,000 bonus, according to Sanchez, though he does not rank among MLB.com’s top 30 international prospects. Baseball America ranks him 28th, however, and says he “could be a power-speed threat, though at (6-foot-5 and 205 lbs.) it’s more likely he slows down as he continues to add weight.”

Here are the last few signings, via Sanchez and Baseball America:

  • Dominican Republic OF Stanley Rosario ($300,000)
  • Dominican Republic SS Miguel Marte ($200,000)
  • Dominican Republic RHP Albert Vega ($100,000)
  • Venezuelan C Engelbert Ascanio (bonus unknown)
  • Dominican Republic SS Ezequiel Duran (bonus unknown)
  • Dominican Republic OF Nelson Medina (bonus known)
  • Dominican Republic 3B Jose Martinez (bonus unknown)

None of those seven players ranked among the top international free agents by MLB.com, Baseball America, or FanGraphs. The fact Rosario, Marte, and Vega received six-figure bonuses tells us the Yankees like them though. They don’t give nobodies six figures.

The Wild Cards

In his AL East signing forecast, Badler (subs. req’d) linked the Yankees to several players who have not yet signed. Here’s where those players are ranked by MLB.com and Baseball America:

  • Venezuelan OF Raimfer Salinas (6th by MLB.com, 10th by BA): “(There’s) a belief the young outfielder has the potential to be a legitimate five-tool player and an impact player in the near future,” says the MLB.com scouting report.
  • Venezuelan C Antonio Cabello (8th by MLB.com, 15th by BA): “(He) hits in games and his makeup is considered off of the charts. He has built a reputation as a tough and hard-nosed competitor who hates to lose,” says the MLB.com write-up.
  • Venezuelan SS Osleivis Basabe (NR by MLB.com, 46th by BA): “On pure athleticism, Basabe is one of the best in the class … Basabe is a great athlete with good bat speed but his hitting remains a project,” says the Baseball America scouting report.

Between Pereira, Chirinos, Garcia, Rosario, Marte, and Vega the Yankees have already spent $3.45M of their $4.75M hard cap space. There are surely other signings we haven’t heard about yet, so they may have less than $1M of their original hard cap space remaining. That doesn’t even include the presumed Rojas deal, which will likely be worth close to $1M if not more.

That said, the Yankees did make the trade with the Orioles, and they did that for a reason. They need the bonus space to sign players. They made that trade because they have deals lined up, not because they merely hope to work something out. Maybe they’re going to sign Salinas, or Cabello, or Basabe, or all three, or different players entirely. That money is going to somewhere though. We’ll find out soon.

So what’s the deal with Otani?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Given everything that happened on July 2nd around the league, I can’t imagine Nippon Ham Fighters ace/slugger Shohei Otani is coming over to MLB this offseason. Every team used up their hard cap space, including potential Otani suitors like the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Mariners, Rangers, Phillies, and Angels. Other clubs like the Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals, Astros, Cardinals, Braves, Padres, and Giants are limited to $300,000 bonuses this signing period due to past international spending.

No team has significant bonus pool space remaining. They spent it all on international amateurs once the signing period opened Sunday. Either Otani is going to take a low six-figure bonus (nope) or he’s not coming over this winter (yup). He could wait two years until his 25th birthday, at which point he could sign a contract of any size. MLB and the MLBPA really screwed this up. They should be trying to attract players like Otani, not push them away.

Saturday Links: Otani, Draft Info, Mock Drafts, Old Timers’ Day

Otani. (Presswire)
Otani. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Orioles continue their weekend series later tonight, with a 7:15pm ET game. Boy, I sure do hate Saturday night games. Anyway, until then, check out Jorge Posada’s letter to his younger self at The Players’ Tribune, then check out these stray bits of news.

Latest on Shohei Otani

Earlier this week Jeff Passan posted a bit of an update on Nippon Ham Fighters ace/slugger Shohei Otani, the best player in the world not under contract with one of the 30 big league teams. Otani is only 22, which means he would be subject to the international bonus hard cap if he were to come over to MLB this offseason. Waiting until he’s 25 would allow him to sign a contract of any size. Anyway, the important details from Passan:

  • There is “significant skepticism” that Otani will come over to MLB this winter. Teams estimate his market value right now, at age 22, at at least $200M. Market value is not the same thing as earning potential, of course.
  • MLB is expected to be “vigilant to ensure the sanctity of the system is not made a mockery by extralegal payments,” meaning a team couldn’t give Otani a long-term contract shortly after signing him, thereby circumventing the hard cap.
  • AL teams believe they have an inside track to sign Otani because they can let him DH between starts. NL teams are wary of letting him play the outfield when he’s not on the mound.

Otani, by the way, has been hampered by a nagging ankle issue this season. He has yet to pitch and only recently did he return to the lineup as a designated hitter. He’s hitting .407/.469/.815 with five doubles and two homers in eight games so far.

My guess — and this is only a guess — is Otani will not come over to MLB this winter. I think he’ll instead announce his intention to come over next offseason, allowing teams to get their international bonus money situation in order. Right now, just about every team has agreements in place with Latin American players for July 2nd, leaving them no money for Otani over the winter. We’ll see.

Latest Mock Drafts

With the draft two days away, the consensus right now is the Twins will select Vanderbilt RHP Kyle Wright with the first overall pick. That allows California HS SS/RHP Hunter Greene, the unanimous No. 1 prospect in the draft class, to slip to the Reds with the second pick, or maybe even the Padres with the third pick. Anyway, here are the latest mock drafts and their Yankees’ picks:

In the FanGraphs write-up Eric Longenhagen notes the Yankees have had “special assistants” in to see Rogers, though I should note that isn’t unusual for any player under first round consideration. Baseball America says the Yankees have been “linked to college arms all spring, but (they) also could go for the right college bat.” MLB.com links them to California HS 1B Nick Pratto (RAB profile) in addition to Canning and Rogers.

(Self-Promotion: I posted a mock draft at CBS that is little more than educated guesswork, so check that out. I’m not going to tell you who I have the Yankees taking. No, I’m not above begging for clicks.)

(Matthew Ziegler/Getty)
(Matthew Ziegler/Getty)

Swisher, Boucher to represent Yankees at draft

Last week MLB announced the representatives for all 30 teams for Monday’s draft broadcast on MLB Network. Nick Swisher and Denis Boucher are representing the Yankees. Here are every team’s representatives. Swisher is Swisher. He played for the Yankees from 2009-12 and was very productive. He’ll go down as one of Brian Cashman‘s greatest trades. Also, when Swisher left as a free agent, the Yankees used the compensation draft pick to select Aaron Judge. That trade is the gift that keeps on giving.

Boucher has been with the Yankees since 2010 and he more or less runs their amateur scouting in Eastern Canada. His MLB playing career was brief (1991-94 with the Blue Jays, Indians, Expos) and since then he’s worked to grow the game in Canada. Boucher has coached Canadian Olympic teams, in the World Baseball Classic, and a bunch of other international tournaments. He’s also been involved in developing Canada’s youth baseball program. Certainly not a household name, but Boucher has done a lot to promote the game north of the border. Pretty cool the Yankees are rewarding him with a trip to the draft.

Also, I should note MLB has announced four prospects will attend the draft Monday: Greene, Rogers, Kentucky HS OF Jordon Adell (RAB profile), and Alabama HS OF Bubba Thompson (RAB profile). Would be kinda cool if the Yankees picked a kid actually at the draft, no? Judge and Ian Clarkin were there for the 2013 draft, remember.

Yankees announce Old Timers’ Day roster

Old Timers’ Day is Sunday, June 25th this year — two weeks from tomorrow — and a few days ago the Yankees announced the list of attendees. Here’s the press release. Most are the usual suspects. Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, Paul O’Neill, Ron Guidry, etc. The guys we see every Old Timers’ Day. The most notable first time Old Timer is Jorge Posada. He’s the first member of the Core Four (groan) to attend Old Timers’ Day. Neat.

Also, during the Old Timers’ Day festivities, the Yankees will hold a special ceremony to honor new Hall of Famer Tim Raines. Raines is going into the Hall of Fame as an Expo (duh), but he was an incredibly productive platoon outfielder with the Yankees from 1996-98. Rock hit .299/.395/.429 (120 wRC+) with 18 homers and 26 steals in 940 plate appearances those years, his age 36-38 seasons. Pretty awesome.

Saturday Links: Posting System, IFAs, Sanchez, All-Star Game

Otani. (Masterpress/Getty)
Otani. (Masterpress/Getty)

The Yankees and Cubs continue their three-game weekend series with the middle game today, though not until 7pm ET. Weekend night games are just the worst. Here are some notes to check out as you wait for first pitch.

MLB seeks to revise posting agreement with NPB

According to report out of Japan, Major League Baseball has applied to renegotiate a provision in their posting agreement with Nippon Pro Baseball. That’s the system used to bring players from Japan over to MLB. Apparently MLB wants to reduce the maximum release fee, which is currently $20M. The owners are trying to cut costs? I’m shocked. Shocked I tell you. The two sides will reportedly discuss the matter Monday.

MLB managed to get NPB to agree to an overhauled posting system four years ago, conveniently right before Masahiro Tanaka came over. The old system was a blind auction, and the team that made the high bid won the player’s negotiating rights. Under the new system, the player is allowed to negotiate with every team like a true free agent, and only the team that signs him has to pay the release fee. That’s how the Yankees landed Tanaka.

So, the last time a significant player was set to come over (Tanaka), MLB was able to change the system to lower costs. (The Rangers won the rights to Yu Darvish with a massive $51.7M bid under the old system years ago.) Now another significant player (Shohei Otani) is expected to come to MLB soon, and they want to lower costs again. A sense a pattern.

Yankees expected to sign three top international free agents

MLB.com released their top 30 prospects for the 2017-18 international signing period earlier this week, and according to the write-ups, the Yankees are expected to sign three of those top 30 players: Venezuelan OF Everson Pereira (No. 4 on the top 30), Dominican 2B Ronny Rojas (No. 11), and Venezuelan OF Roberto Chirinos (No. 16). You can read the scouting reports for free at the MLB.com link. We’ve heard the Yankees connected to Pereira before. The international signing period opens July 2nd, as always.

A few things about the 2017-18 IFA signing period. One, the Yankees can spend again! The penalties from the 2014-15 spending spree, which limited the Yankees to a maximum bonus of $300,000 in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, have expired. Two, this is the first signing period with the hard cap, and the Yankees only have $4.75M to spend. Not a penny more. That stinks. And three, this is potential the Otani signing period. He’ll be subject to the hard cap because he is not yet 25 years old. His earning potential is severely limited at the moment.

Based on the write-ups, several other potential Otani suitors (Red Sox, Cubs, Blue Jays, Mariners, etc.) are expected to sign some of MLB.com’s top 30 international prospects, indicating they are not saving their bonus money for Otani. Others like the Dodgers, Giants, Astros, Nationals, and Cardinals will be limited to $300,000 bonuses as part of the penalties for past international spending. Is anyone going to have hard cap space left for Otani? Assuming teams following through on their agreements with international amateurs, there might not be any money left over. Hmmm.

Sanchez has top selling AL jersey

Gary & 'Hiro. (Elsa/Getty)
Gary & ‘Hiro. (Elsa/Getty)

Two weeks ago MLB and the MLBPA announced their annual top selling player jerseys list based on online sales since the end of the 2016 World Series. Here is the press release. You will be surprised to learn the defending World Series champion Cubs dominate the top of the list:

  1. Kris Bryant, Cubs
  2. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
  3. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
  4. Javier Baez, Cubs
  5. Kyle Schwarber, Cubs

Gary Sanchez ranks ninth on the best selling jerseys list overall, but is first among AL players. He’s one spot ahead of Mike Trout and five spots ahead of Mookie Betts. Sanchez, Trout, Betts, Francisco Lindor, Jose Altuve, Dustin Pedroia, and Josh Donaldson are the only AL players in the top 20. The list is decidedly NL (and Cubs) heavy. Pretty cool that Sanchez is so popular already. I guess doing what he did last year has a way of creating attention.

Over the last week, however, Aaron Judge has the third best selling player jersey behind Bryant and Rizzo, according to Buster Olney. The Yankees should have give away Aaron Judge-sized Aaron Judge shirts at a game one day as a promotion. That would be pretty cool.

All-Star Game voting opens

Voting for the 2017 All-Star Game starters is now open. They get a really early start on this each season. The ballot is right here. You can vote pretty much an unlimited number of times, though you’ll need different email addresses. On merit, both Aaron Judge and Starlin Castro legitimately deserve All-Star votes right now. Will they in two months? I sure hope so. I doesn’t really matter though. Royals fans are going to stuff the ballot like they always do anyway. Looking forward to seeing Eric Hosmer at first base, you guys.

It’s sounding more and more like Shohei Otani will come over to MLB after this season

(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)
It’s both Otani and Ohtani. (Atsushi Tomura/Getty)

Through seven games this season, it couldn’t be any more obvious the Yankees have some work to do to build a pitching staff going forward. Even while acknowledging Masahiro Tanaka is not really this bad, the fact is he can opt-out after the season, and who knows what happens after that. Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia will be free agents too. The kids are promising but unproven.

The most interesting name on the free agent pitching market for the foreseeable future will be Nippon Ham Fighters ace Shohei Otani, the 22-year-old who throws 100 mph when he pitches and socks dingers when he doesn’t. Otani recently suffered a thigh strain running out a ground ball and will miss six weeks, though that shouldn’t affect his stock going forward. Muscle pulls happen. It just means scouts won’t be able to see him for a few weeks.

Otani appeared on 60 Minutes this past weekend, and while he stopped short of saying he will come over to MLB this offseason, he did say, “Personally, I don’t care how much I get paid, or how much less I get paid, because of this,” which seemed to acknowledge baseball’s silly international hard cap. Because he is under 25, Otani is subject to the hard cap, which limits each team’s annual international spending to $4.75M to $5.75M.

The (Ham) Fighters, for what it’s worth, will post Otani whenever he decides to come over to MLB, according to Jon Wertheim. From Wertheim:

While neither party will confirm the particulars, the team clearly seems to have made an agreement with the Ohtani family: When Shohei was ready to declare yosh ganbarimasu (“I’m gonna go for it”), the Fighters would not stand in his way. Rather, they would agree to “post” him, taking the negotiated fee from a major league team (currently $20 million), relinquishing his rights and wishing him well.

Their agreement reportedly dates back a while. Otani flirted with the idea of coming over to MLB as an 18-year-old out of high school a few years ago a la Junichi Tazawa, but the (Ham) Fighters convinced him to stay and agreed to post him for MLB clubs when the time comes. This will be his fifth season in Japan, and I can’t imagine he wants to stay much longer. He won a championship and was named MVP last year. What’s left to accomplish?

The natural reaction is to think once Otani decides to come over — and it sure sounds like it could happen this offseason — the Yankees should go after him hard because pitchers this young and this talented are hard to find. The Yankees are in the middle of a youth movement and Otani would fit right in as the pitching center piece. A few problems with that though:

  1. The hard cap evens the playing field. The Yankees can only offer Otani whatever they have in international money, which is $4.75M. That’s assuming they don’t sign any Latin American players on July 2nd, and supposedly the club already has some agreements in place. The Yankees can’t flex their financial muscle and blow everyone away with an offer.
  2. Does he want to hit? I’m guessing yes. So the real question is will the Yankees let him hit? Otani’s decision could very well come down to a team agreeing to let him hit and pitch. Start every fifth day and then DH a few times between starts. That’s risky, man. Imagine losing your ace because he gets hit by a pitch or pulls a muscle running the bases, which is exactly what happened with this recently thigh injury.
  3. Otani is said to prefer the West Coast. Supposedly Otani prefers the West Coast because it’s closer to home, though it’s unclear how much of a priority that really is for him. Tanaka was said to prefer the West Coast too, remember. Just something to keep in mind.

As much as the Yankees could use a young power starter like Otani to continue their youth movement, this isn’t a matter of simply wanting him and bidding. The international hard cap levels the playing field, and Otani’s potential preferences of the West Coast and being allowed to hit complicate things. In the past, the Yankees could up the ante and pay more to lure players. They can’t do that in this situation.

I’m really curious to see how teams approach the July 2nd international signing period. Do they do nothing and save their bonus pool money in hopes Otani is posted? That’s really risky. You could end up with no international talent during the 2017-18 signing period — or at least no high-end talent — and no Otani either. Keep in mind several big market teams like the Cubs, Dodgers, Nationals, Giants, Astros, and Cardinals are basically out on Otani. They’re limited to the $300,000 bonus maximum this coming offseason due to past international spending.

The Yankees can offer Otani the opportunity to be a part-time designated hitter — he’s a lefty with pull power! — and hey, playing for the Yankees comes with some pretty great endorsement opportunities. That’s pretty much the only thing that separates them from the pack now. The signing bonus playing field is level. I’d love to see the Yankees get Otani — or a similar high-end young starter — though the more time that passes, the more I feel like things stack up against them.

Yankees pursued Mexican League righty Hector Velazquez

(AP)
(AP)

According to Evan Drellich, the Yankees pursued Mexican League right-hander Hector Velazquez before he signed with the Red Sox earlier this month. This wasn’t exactly the second coming of the Jose Contreras chase, though the two AL East financial superpowers were after the same Latin American pitcher. Boston purchased Velazquez’s contract from his Mexican League team and he is in camp as a non-roster player.

“After the Caribbean Series they told me that the Red Sox were interested,” said Velazquez to Drellich. “So I spoke to (their scouts) and they told me about their interest in me. And then soon after, Campeche, which is the team that I play for, told me that the Yankees were also interested. The way things in work in Mexico is, Campeche is the one who decides exactly who do you go to. They asked me at the end of the day who I wanted to go to, and I chose the Red Sox because they were the first ones to come to me and reach out.”

Velazquez, who turned 28 in November, had a 2.46 ERA with 120 strikeouts and only 16 walks in 131.1 innings in the Mexican League last season. His career numbers aren’t nearly as good — Velazquez has a 4.01 ERA and a 2.05 K/BB in 1,019.2 innings career innings, all in Mexico — but this is a “what have you done for me lately” game, and Velazquez was pretty great last summer. Here’s some video.

By no means is Velazquez a top prospect or anything like that. He’s a just turned 28-year-old right-hander who had a lot of success in a league roughly equivalent to Triple-A last season, and when players do what he did, teams notice. The Yankees made a run at Velazquez and the Red Sox beat them to it. C’est la vie.

More than anything, this is a reminder the Yankees leave basically no stone unturned when it comes to looking for pitching depth. They rolled the dice on a successful Mexican League right-hander nine years ago and were rewarded with 84 pretty excellent relief innings from Al Aceves in 2009. Perhaps Velazquez could have been have provided similar impact. Alas.

The 2017-18 international free agent class and the Shohei Otani question

(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)
(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)

For years and years and years, the Yankees built their farm system through international free agency. They were in contention every year and forfeiting their low first round picks to sign top free agents all the time, though they were able to spend freely in international free agency to compensate. That’s why so many of their top prospects from 1998-2012 or so were international signees. Alfonso Soriano, Wily Mo Pena, Robinson Cano, Chien-Ming Wang, Melky Cabrera, Jesus Montero, and so on.

Nowadays teams can’t spend freely internationally. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement implemented a hard spending cap. Under the just completed CBA, each team was given a set bonus pool and punished harshly if they exceeded it. It was a soft cap. Three years ago the Yankees blew their bonus pool out of the water and signed many of the best available players. Four of my top 30 prospects were part of the 2014-15 international signing class.

As a result of that spending spree, the Yankees had to pay a 100% tax on every penny they spent over their bonus pool — the total payout between bonuses and taxes was north of $30M — plus they were unable to sign a player for more than $300,000 during both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 international signing periods. That restriction will be lifted when the 2017-18 international signing period begins July 2nd. Hooray for that.

Earlier this week Ben Badler (subs. req’d) reported the Yankees, who have a $4.75M international cap this year, have been connected to Venezuelan center fielder Everson Periera in advance of the 2017-18 signing period. I can’t find much on the kid at all, but apparently he’s a big deal. Here’s some video:

The Yankees and every other team have been scouting international players for years, and I’m certain there are some contract agreements already in place even though they aren’t allowed. It happens all the time. Badler is the best in the business, and if he says the Yankees are connected to Periera, I not only don’t doubt him one bit, I assume the two sides already have some kind of deal in place.

The international hard cap really stinks, especially for the kids, though at least the Yankees will be able to hand out large bonuses to talented kids like Periera again. Being limited to $300,000 bonuses the last two signing periods stunk. The big question to me right now is not necessarily who will the Yankee sign on July 2nd. It’s how are the Yankees planning for Shohei Otani, if at all?

Otani, as you surely know, is the best player in the world not under contract with an MLB team. He threw 140 innings with a 1.86 ERA and 174 strikeouts for the Nippon Ham Fighters last year while also hitting .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers. Most agree Otani’s long-term future lies on the mound because he has ace potential. For now, he’s a monster two-way player for the (Ham) Fighters.

Otani has expressed interest in coming over to MLB as soon as next offseason, though because he is only 22, he will be subject to the international hard cap. He’d have to wait three years until he’s 25 to be able to sign for any amount like a true free agent. Should Otani be posted after this coming season, all 30 clubs figure to shovel their remaining international cap space in front of him and hope it’s enough to sign him. What else could you do?

If you’re the Yankees — or any other team, for that matter — do you pass on Periera and everyone else on July 2nd and instead conserve your international cap space for Otani in the offseason? It’s awfully risky. Otani is not guaranteed to be posted. You’re walking away from the top international talent in July with no assurances Otani will be available after the season, and even if he is available, it’s far from a guarantee you’ll sign him. The odds of ending up with no talent and a bunch of international money burning a hole in your pocket is quite high.

At the same time, Otani is so insanely talented that you’d hate to take yourself out of the market for a big league ready impact player to sign a bunch of 16-year-old kids who are years away from reaching MLB. (The Yankees signed Gary Sanchez, a top international prospect, in July 2009 and it wasn’t until August 2016 that he reached the show for good, so yeah.) Otani would fit New York’s youth movement so well. He’d be the young rotation cornerstone they need going forward.

There’s always a chance the (Ham) Fighters will announce in advance they’re going to post Otani after the season, but I can’t remember that ever happening. If anything, it’s usually the opposite. We wait weeks and weeks in the offseason waiting for the team to decide whether to post the player. That’s what happened with Masahiro Tanaka and Yu Darvish. We didn’t know for sure they would be posted until their teams actually posted them.

I can’t imagine the (Ham) Fighters want to announce they’re moving their best player after the season ahead of time. That won’t sit well with fans. Then again, perhaps they could make a great event out of it and have a big farewell tour. That’d be kinda cool. Point is, it’s far from certain Otani will be available after the season. He may decide to wait out the next three years, make good money in Japan, then come over to MLB when he’s 25 and no longer subject to the international hard cap.

That the Yankees are already connected to a guy like Periera indicates they plan on approaching the 2017-18 international free agency period as if it’s business as usual. Badler’s report says eleven other clubs, including traditional big international spenders like the Red Sox, Mariners, and Blue Jays, are also connected to Latin American players for the 2017-18 signing period, so the Yankees aren’t the only team taking this approach.

(The Athletics, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, Padres, Reds, and Royals will all be limited to $300,000 bonuses during the 2017-18 international free agency period as a result of past spending, so that’s the max they could offer Otani next offseason.)

My guess right now is that, despite the rumblings, Otani will not be posted next winter. The max bonus he can receive under the international hard cap is only a touch more than his projected salary with the (Ham) Fighters in 2018. He could remain in Japan until 2019, make close to what he’d make in MLB in the meantime, then come over when he can sign a monster contract at 25. The Yankees and plenty of other clubs seem to be proceeding as if that will be the case.

Thursday Notes: Mendoza, Montgomery, Prospect Lists

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The seemingly never-ending offseason continues. I guess the good news is the Yankees’ first Grapefruit League game is four weeks from tomorrow, and yes, that game will be broadcast on the YES Network. Four weeks and one day until actual baseball is on your television. It’ll be glorious. I’ll post the full Spring Training broadcast schedule once all the networks announce their plans. Until then, here are some newsy nuggets to check out.

Hector Mendoza declared a free agent

Cuban right-hander Hector Mendoza has been declared a free agent by MLB, reports Jesse Sanchez. Sanchez says Mendoza is expected to wait until his 23rd birthday on March 5th to sign, at which point he would be a true free agent unaffected by the international spending restrictions. Every team, including the Yankees and other clubs currently limited by international bonus penalties, would be able to sign him to a contract of any size at that point.

Back in April 2015, Ben Badler (subs. req’d) ranked Mendoza as the 12th best prospect in Cuba, one spot ahead of current Dodgers farmhand Yasiel Sierra. “At his best, he throws 90-94 mph with downhill plane, with solid strike-throwing ability and fastball command for his age … His 76-80 mph curveball is a solid-average pitch,” says the two-year-old scouting report. It also mentions Mendoza features a changeup and figures to start long-term.

Sierra signed a six-year deal worth $30M last February — he then pitched to 5.89 ERA (4.26 FIP) in 88.2 innings split between High-A and Double-A last year, and reportedly didn’t impress scouts either — so I guess that’s the benchmark for Mendoza. The Yankees have steered clear of the big money Cuban player market the last few seasons, so I’m not expecting them to get involved. And, frankly, I didn’t even know the guy existed until a few days ago.

Teams asking for Montgomery in trades

According to George King (subs. req’d), Brian Cashman confirmed teams have asked for left-hander Jordan Montgomery in trade talks this offseason. “He is a starter and left-handed. His name comes up,” said the GM. Not only that, but Montgomery has already has success at Triple-A (albeit in 37 innings) and is close to MLB ready, making him even more desirable. Here’s my prospect profile.

It can be really easy to overlook a guy like Montgomery given the strength and depth of the Yankees’ farm system, but he’s come a long way as a prospect the last few seasons. He’s added a cutter and also gained quite a bit of velocity, going from 88-91 mph in college to 93-95 mph in 2016. The Yankees seem to have a knack for getting guys to add velocity. Their throwing program must be good. We’ll see Montgomery in the Bronx in 2017. I’m sure of it.

MLB.com’s top prospects by position

Over the last few days MLB.com has been releasing their annual positional prospect lists. That is, the ten best prospects at each position. Several Yankees farmhands make appearances on the various lists. Here’s a quick recap:

I’m a bit surprised the Yankees only had one player on the outfield list, but eh, whatever. The shortstop list is stacked as always. Torres is one spot ahead of Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, the first overall pick in the 2015 draft. Mateo is one spot ahead of Twins shortstop Nick Gordon, the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft.

James Kaprielian failing to crack the top ten righties shouldn’t be a surprise. He did miss just about the entire 2016 season, after all. Also, I’d be more bummed about not having a top catcher prospect if, you know, Gary Sanchez didn’t exit. But he does and that’s cool. Same thing with first base and Greg Bird. Landing five prospects in the various top ten lists is pretty cool.

Update: On Twitter, Jim Callis says Blake Rutherford ranks 14th among outfielders in MLB.com’s upcoming top 100 prospects list.

Spring Training is getting shorter

Starting in 2018, Spring Training will be a whole two days shorter, reports Ronald Blum. Huge news, eh? As part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement the regular season will increase from 183 days to 187 days starting in 2018, and the shorter Spring Training will help make that happen. The goal was to add more off-days “in a way that doesn’t just chew up offseason days,” said MLBPA general counsel Matt Nussbaum.

The players have been pushing for more in-season off-days for a while now, and at one point they proposed shortening the season to 154 games. I’m not surprised that didn’t happen. The owners would be giving up four home games each, plus television contracts would have to be revised because they include a minimum number of broadcasts and things like that. Lots of logistical issues to work through. So anyway, two fewer days of Spring Training in two years. Yippee.