Archive for International Free Agents
Thursday 8/1: Badler says Molina signed for $550.
Tuesday 7/2: The Yankees have signed Rodriguez for $575k, reports Jesse Sanchez. The team still has a touch more than $1.3M left to spend barring a trade for more pool space. Rodriguez is the only player they’ve signed so far, but it’s worth noting Molina can’t sign until he turns 16 on August 1st.
Monday 7/1: Via Ben Badler (subs. req’d): The Yankees are expected to sign Dominican shortstop Yonauris Rodriguez to a mid-six-figure signing bonus when the international signing period opens tomorrow. Between him and Dominican outfielder Leonardo Molina, Badler says the Yankees are likely max out their $1.88M spending pool. They are trying to trade for more pool money, however.
Rodriguez, 16, is said to be a high-energy player who stands out more for his defensive tools — namely quick feet and soft hands — than his hitting ability. The right-handed hitter is listed at 6-foot-0 and 160 lbs. and has good speed. Rodriguez played in the Dominican Prospect League and at various showcase events at the Yankees’ complex. Badler did not rank him among the 30 best international free agents available this summer. Here’s video.
Via George King: The Yankees are interested in signing Dominican third baseman Rafael Devers when the international signing period opens on Tuesday. He reiterates their interest in Dominican outfielder Leonardo Molina as well. “They like all the players in the picture, but have an interest in Molina and Devers,’’ said King’s source.
Devers, 16, was recently ranked the third best international prospect available by Baseball America. In the subscriber-only scouting report, they say he is the “most advanced left-handed hitter on the market” thanks to his bat speed, compact stroke, power potential, and ability to both recognize and drive offspeed pitches. His defense at the hot corner is a question, especially if he continues to get bigger as he ages — he’s listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 lbs.
The Yankees only have $1.88M to spend internationally this year — they are reportedly trying to trade for more pool space — which doesn’t seem like enough to sign both Devers and Molina (fifth best prospect by Baseball America). If they can’t swing a trade for another $1M or so, they’ll probably have to pick one of the two.
Via George King: The Yankees are not interested in signing Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. They have scouted him during his recent workouts in Mexico. “That looks like the Dodgers,” said a scout who has been in attendance for the workouts.
Gonzalez, 26, was recently declared a free agent, but he still needs to be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control before he can negotiate and officially sign. He’s said to have a mid-90s fastball plus a changeup, a curveball, and a forkball, but he hasn’t pitched much the last two years due to suspensions following attempts to defect. King says the bidding is expected to climb north of $40M, perhaps as high as $60M.
Via Ben Badler (subs. req’d): The Yankees are among several clubs looking to acquire more international spending pool money in advance of the July 2nd signing period. Teams can indeed trade pool money, but the deal can not be officially announced until July 2nd.
The Yankees have just $1.88M to spending internationally this year, which is nothing. Only seven teams have pools worth more than $3M this year, so the number of clubs willing to deal international money is very limited. Badler also says clubs are having trouble working through trades because they can’t figure out how to value a chunk of money. That’s not surprising, this stuff is very weird.
Via Bill Shaikin & Ken Rosenthal: Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has been declared a free agent by MLB. He must first be “unblocked” by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets before he can negotiate and sign with teams, but that should happen soon.
Gonzalez, 26, threw for clubs on Thursday in Mexico and will do so again on Friday. Rosenthal says the showcase was heavily scouted, though it’s unclear if the Yankees were in attendance. The righty is said to have a mid-90s fastball plus a changeup, a curveball, and a forkball. Gonzalez has not pitched much the last two years due to suspensions following attempts to defect. Because of his age, his signing bonus will not count towards the annual international spending pool.
I know nothing about Gonzalez beyond what’s in this post, but Rosenthal touts him as “likely to be the next big thing from Cuba.” The Yankees have been very conservative when it comes to big ticket international players in recent years, and I don’t have any reason to think that will change with Gonzalez. We’ll find out eventually.
Via Jeff Passan: MLB is expected to announce they will not implement an international draft for the 2014 season later today. In fact, talks will be tabled until after the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2016. The owners have been pushing for a worldwide draft for years now in an effort to keep costs down, and at one point it seemed like one could be implemented as soon as this year. Thankfully, that won’t happen. This is good news for the Yankees despite their small international spending pool.
In other news, Ben Badler reports Mariano Rivera and Robinson Cano are two of more than 150 Latin American players to sign a petition against an international draft. Miguel Cabrera, Felix Hernandez, Yoenis Cespedes, Carlos Gonzalez, Yadier Molina, and Carlos Beltran are among the other signatures. Molina and Beltran stand out because they’re Puerto Rican, and Puerto Rico is already included in June’s annual draft. The petition was put together by four prominent agents for Latin American amateur players during Spring Training. It was then sent to the MLBPA, which must agree to an international draft.
Via Ben Badler (subs. req’d): The Yankees are the “most likely landing spot” for Dominican outfield prospect Leonardo Molina once this year’s international signing period opens on July 2nd. They have $1.18-1.88M to spend internationally this summer, depending on whether there is free agency or an international draft.
Molina, who has no relation to the Puerto Rican-born catching trio, is the top prospect in the Dominican Prospect League and one of the best athletes available this year. He is listed at 6-foot-2 and 170 lbs., and Badler says he’s a “plus-plus runner with a strong arm, giving him the tools to be an excellent defender in center field once he refines his routes.” Molina offers good bat speed from the right side but he needs to refine his swing a bit to tap into his offensive potential. He can’t sign until he turns 16 on August 1st, but is likely to land a seven-figure bonus once eligible.
Thursday: Badler says all 30 teams were also assigned international “slot” values, indicating a worldwide draft may be forthcoming. There are 120 slots (four rounds) and the Yankees are allotted $1,177,900 total, including $487,200 for their first pick (28th overall).
Tuesday: Via Ben Badler: The Yankees have a $1,877,900 international spending pool this summer, the third lowest in baseball by virtue of having the third best record in the league last year. The Astros, meanwhile, will have just under $5M at their disposal. The international signing period officially begins on July 2nd.
Every team was allocated $2.9M for international players last summer, which the Yankees spent on the first day of the signing period on three players: C Luis Torrens, OF Alex Palma, and IF Yancarlos Baez. The spending pools are scaled based on the previous year’s record now, though there has been plenty of talk about a worldwide draft lately. Either way, the Yankees used the international market to build their farm system for decades because of the ability to spend freely, but that ability has now been taken away. That isn’t good for anyone, especially the players.
Tuesday: Buster Olney says MLB is willing to give up “significant concessions” to the union to make a worldwide draft happen. That could mean increasing the minimum salary, requiring less service time for arbitration eligibility, stuff like that. I don’t understand why the owners want this so bad.
Monday: Via Eric Fisher: MLB and the players’ union are hoping to strike a deal for a worldwide draft by June 1st of this year. If that doesn’t happen, the international spending pools implemented by the Collective Bargaining Agreement will kick in for the summer. (h/t MLBTR)
Fisher describes the spending limits as a “poison pill” designed to push the idea of a worldwide draft. The logistics are pretty nightmarish, but hey, MLB has a wonderful track record when it comes to well thought out and not at all half-assed plans to fix issues that aren’t broken. Anything to stop investing money into the future of baseball, I guess.
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.