Archive for International Free Agents
Via Taiwan Baseball, the Yankees are after 16-year-old Taiwanese shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin. They had originally agreed to sign him for $350k back in 2010, but the deal fell apart because he was too young to turn pro at the time. Bidding is expected to approach $2M this time around. “For sure we will make an offer that is higher than the current offers to get him to join the Yankees,” said Ken Su, the team’s scout in Taiwan. “Our organization has given instructions to get (Lin) at any cost.”
MLB.com recently ranked Lin as the 18th best international free agent on the market, noting that he’s a burner from the left side of the plate with little present power but a strong arm and solid defensive skills. He’s listed at 5-foot-8 and 160 lbs., so c’mon growth spurt. It’s worth noting that Lin will be subject to the spending restrictions implemented by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement come July 2nd, so expect him to sign before then. The Yankees are a very popular team in Taiwan thanks to the success of Chien-Ming Wang, and that can only help their pursuit of Lin and other prospects.
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.
We’re less than four weeks away from the amateur draft and less than eight weeks away from the start of the international free agent signing period, the two primary ways for teams to acquire young talent. The new Collective Bargaining agreement really hampers things with its new spending restrictions — designed to keep money away from the players and in the owner’s pockets — but there’s nothing that can be done about that. It’s just a new challenge for the 30 front offices, essentially.
We’re probably still a few weeks away from hearing about the Yankees having interest in specific players, but there’s still a ton of draft and international free agent news to recap. Let’s get to it…
First Round Slot Money: $1.6M
The Yankees will have just north of $4.19M to spend on the first ten rounds of the draft this year thanks to the new CBA, and $1.6M of that $4.19M is the slot value for their first round pick (#30 overall) according to Jim Callis. That’s up about 46% from last year’s slot value and if the Yankees pay their first rounder straight slot money, it will be the sixth largest bonus they’ve ever given to a drafted player.
Teams can exceed slot for individual picks without penalty, but they can’t do the same for the draft pool overall. So the Yankees can pay their first rounder for than $1.6M but can’t pay their picks in the top ten rounds more than $4.19M collectively if they want to avoid surrendering future picks and paying the tax.
Law’s Top 100 Draft Prospects
Players have mostly sorted themselves out now that the college and high school seasons are nearly complete, and we have a clearer picture of who will be selected when. Injury is probably the biggest factor at the point, at least in terms of a player drastically changing their draft status. Keith Law posted his list of the top 100 draft prospects two days ago, though you do need a subscription to read the entire thing. Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton remains atop the rankings and is now followed by Puerto Rico high school shortstop Carlos Correa. The consensus seems to be that if you want impact talent this year, you’re going to have to go after prep players. The college crop is solid but not mind-blowing like last year.
Personal fave Carson Kelly, a high school third baseman/right-hander from Oregon, ranks 27th on KLaw’s list. That gives me some hope that he’ll be around when the Yankees pick, not that I expect them to draft him or anything. Here’s my write-up on Kelly.
Gaming The International Free Agent System
The new CBA has restricting spending on international free agents as well, an avenue the Yankees have used to acquire young talent quite prominently throughout the years. Each club will have $2.9M to spend on international players this year (starting July 2nd) before switching over to a sliding scale based on winning percentage in the future. The more you win, the less you get to spend.
Ben Badler wrote about how teams can essentially get around that $2.9M limit this year, including some shady under-the-table dealings. The article is free for everyone, so you don’t need a subscription. It’s worth noting that the article is speculative and not actual reporting of what teams have been/will be doing. I know this much though: if there’s a loophole in the system, someone will exploit it.
Baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement is going to put a serious damper on international spending, capping teams at $2.9M this year before shifting to a sliding scale in the future. To more you win, the less you get to spend. The Yankees have traditionally been one of baseball’s powerhouses in Latin America, and last year they dropped close to $3M on international prospects. Baseball America’s Ben Badler published his AL East spending review yesterday, looking at the players the Yankees and their division rivals signed in 2011. You do need a subscription to read the article.
The Yankees largest international signing last year was 17-year-old Dominican third baseman Miguel Andujar, who received $750k. “Andujar doesn’t have one huge carrying tool or do anything flashy, but he doesn’t have a glaring weakness either,” wrote Badler. “He’s a right-handed hitter with good bat speed, a sound swing and a good approach to hitting for his age. His hands are quick and he could hit for average and power. Andujar is an average runner and a solid defensive third baseman.” Expect him to spend this year in the Dominican Summer League before making his stateside debut in 2013.
Andujar headlines the position player crop, which also includes a trio of Dominican prospects — shortstop Abi Avelino ($175k), outfielder Wascar Rodriguez ($150k), infielder Victor Rey $135k) — and one Colombian catcher (Alvaro Noriega at $175k). Rodriguez offers big raw power while the others do their best work on the defensive side of the ball. Noriega does enough things well that he should remain behind the plate long-term and is likely the best all-around prospect of the bunch. Interestingly enough, the Yankees also signed catcher Dan Vavrusa for $10k out of the Czech Republic. He appears to be the team’s first real foray into Europe.
Right-handers Moises Cedeno (Panama), Luis Severino (DR) and Giovanny Gallegos (Mexico) highlight the pitching crop. Cedeno didn’t turn 16 until late-August, making him the youngest player to sign with any of the 30 clubs last year. He signed for just under $355k and already shows three pitches. The 16-year-old Severino signed for $225k and has touched 95 with a power slider. Gallegos, 20, was part of a package deal similar to one that brought Al Aceves and Manny Banuelos to the Yankees in 2007. He is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but when healthy he’s sat in the low-90s with two breaking balls. Gallegos signed for an even $100k.
Of course, the Yankees just landed what figures to be their most significant international prospect before the new spending restrictions kick in this July. That would be 21-year-old right-hander Rafael DePaula, who was finally able to secure a visa last week. DePaula still has to pass a physical before his long-awaited $500k deal is official, but he’ll instantly become one of the team’s better pitching prospects despite missing so much development time due to a suspension and his visa delay. He and his mid-90s gas could see time with a full season affiliate this summer.
Four of the Yankees top ten prospects originally signed as international free agents, not including trade import Jose Campos. The new spending limitations will impact the Yankees more than most clubs because they’ve relied on the international market to land elite talents like Jesus Montero, which usually aren’t available to them late in the draft. The worldwide appeal of the Yankee brand works in their favor, but there will be a much greater emphasis on pure scouting now.
Update (6:16pm): Here’s is Ben Badler’s report. He says recent reports still have DePaula running his fastball up into the high-90s. The physical should be a non-issue — he’s been working out at the team’s Dominican complex for the last 14 months or so — and I assume the Yankees will hold him back in Extended Spring Training for a bit before bumping him to Low-A Charleston. DePaula figures to be on a faster track than most international free agent pitchers.
2:33pm: Via Ben-Nicholson Smith, Dominican right-hander Rafael DePaula has finally landed a visa. The soon-to-be 21-year-old was having trouble getting to States because of a suspension stemming from age and identity fraud several years ago. The Yankees agreed to sign him for $500k back in November 2010, though the deal was contingent on him securing a visa. With that taken care of, now all he has to do is pass his physical. DePaula is a significant prospect, arguably top ten in the system, but he lost a big chunk of development time this last year or so. Here’s some video.
The Yankees have traditionally been one of the biggest spenders on the international market, but last year they only spent approximately $2.93M on players according to Ben Balder. That ranks 11th out of the 30 teams. The Rangers were by far the biggest spenders last year at $12.83M, with most of it going to two outfielders: Nomar Mazara ($4.95M) and Ronald Guzman ($3.45M). Those are the first and third largest bonuses in history. The Yankees top signing was Dominican third baseman Miguel Andujar at $750k.
Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, every team will be allowed to spend just $2.9M on international free agents in 2012 starting July 2nd. The spending pool will be based on winning percentage starting in 2013, with the good clubs getting the least amount of money to spend. Once a team exceeds their spending pool, they lose future international free agent money. Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler can sign for any amount prior to July 2nd, and it sounds like he’s going to get close to $20M, if not more.
Via Ben Badler, soon-to-be 21-year-old right-hander Rafael DePaula is still in the Dominican Republic waiting for a visa, which would make his $500k contract with the Yankees become official. The two sides agreed to terms in November of 2010, but DePaula has been stuck in visa limbo because he’d previously lied about his age and identity. He spent last year working out at the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic, and I suspect he’ll do the same this summer if he doesn’t get a visa anytime soon. DePaula has a great arm and could still become one of the team’s better pitching prospects, but he’s lost a lot of development time with all these delays.
Via Ben Balder, MLB and the players’ union has gotten together to form an International Talent Committee to review the way international players are sign and developed. The committee will be responsible for many things, including evaluating whether or not baseball should implement an international draft. There’s obviously a ton of logistics that will have to be worked out, including eligibility, agents, trainers, signing age, educational programs, the whole nine, but the wheels are now in motion.
The Yankees have built the core of their farm system through international free agency for decades, but the spending cap put in place by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is really going to throw a wrench into their operation. An international draft will only hurt them further, but thankfully we’re still a few years from seeing one put in place.
Anonymous asks: Do you know if the IFA cap is already in place? By the CBA summary, it seems like it doesn’t go into effect until 2012-2013 signing season, but it’s not really clear. Just wondering if Jorge Soler would count against the cap if the Yanks signed him soon. Thanks.
The spending limit on international free agents starts next July 2nd, so the 2012-2013 signing season. Teams are free to spend as much as they want on players for the next seven months or so. For that first year, each club will be allowed to spend $2.9M on international amateurs, then the budgets will be based on winning percentage in the subsequent years. That’s an average amount but peanuts for the Yankees, who typically spend about twice that most years.
Clubs can exceed their signing budgets, but there is a taxation system like the draft. Here’s the penalty breakdown courtesy of The Biz of Baseball…
Excess of Pool Penalty (Tax on Overage/Draft Picks)
- 0-5% – 75% tax
- 5-10% – 75% tax and loss of right to provide more than one player in the next signing period with a bonus in excess of $500,000.
- 10-15% – 100% tax and loss of right to provide any player in the next signing period with a bonus in excess of $500,0000.
- 15%+ 100% tax and loss of right to provide any player in the next signing period with a bonus in excess of $250,000.
The penalties are already harsh and they will be increased starting in 2014, so hooray for that.
Soler — a 19-year-old Cuban outfielder the Yankees have their eye on — can sign for whatever a team is willing to offer him before next July 2nd. The only problem is that he hasn’t been declared a free agent yet, which MLB will do once they’ve looked into his age and stuff. It only took a few weeks for them to declare Aroldis Chapman a free agent, but that was helped out by his participation in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He’d already been through the process before, whereas Soler has not.
We really have no idea when Soler will be allowed to sign with clubs, but hopefully it’s soon, just for his sake. He stands to lose a lot of money if the process drags on into next summer and past July 2nd.
Baseball officially announced its new Collective Bargaining Agreement this afternoon, a five-year pact between the owners and players’ association. The deal ensures at least 21 consecutive years of labor peace, which is great for the sport. I’m not so sure we can say the same about the rest of the deal though. Many of the changes will hurt baseball, especially in the long-term.
We’ve already recapped changes to the luxury tax, Type-A and B free agents, and the elimination of the Elias rankings, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. All of the CBA news below comes courtesy of the best reporters in all of sports, our beloved baseball writers. Props specifically go out to Jeff Passan, Buster Olney, Bill Shaikin, Ken Rosenthal, and Danny Knobler. This is not a full recap, but Maury Brown has the entire CBA available. Let’s start with the most significant changes…
Draft Spending Limitations
- There is no hard slotting, but teams are given a “draft pool” by MLB that they aren’t supposed to exceed. Teams that do exceed their pool by 5% will be taxed at 75%. Spending in excess of 5-10% will result in a 75% tax and a loss of the next year’s first round pick. Spending in excess of 10-15% results in a 100% tax and and loss of first and second round picks. Spending in excess of 15% results in a 100% tax and the loss of two first round picks. That’s harsh.
- Something called the “Competitive Balance Lottery” gives extra picks to the small-market and low-revenue clubs. Six draft picks immediately after the first round will be given to the ten teams with the ten lowest revenues via a lottery system. A team’s odds of winning the lottery will be based on its winning percentage the prior season. There will be another lottery with six additional picks after the second round for the clubs that miss out on the first set of picks. These Competitive Balance Lottery picks can be traded, but other picks can not.
- If a player drafted in the tenth round or later signs for $100k or more, the extra money counts against the team’s draft pool. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I think it means you can sign a player drafted in the tenth round or later for $100k and it will not count against your pool. Don’t quote me on that.
- The draft signing deadline has been moved up from August 15th to sometime between July 12-18th, depending on the All-Star Game. The college coaches will appreciate this.
- Drafted players can only sign minor league contracts now, and the top 200 prospects will be subject to mandatory drug testing.
International Spending Limitations
- Each team will be allowed to spend $2.9M on amateur free agents this year, or a hundred grand less than the Yankees gave Gary Sanchez in 2009. Starting next winter, the worst teams will be allowed to spend ~$5M while the best teams get to spend ~$1.8M.
- Starting in 2013-2014, teams will be able to trade their international spending cap space, thought clubs will only be able to acquire an additional 50% of their cap. So if the Yankees are limited to a $3M cap, they can only trade for an additional $1.5M.
- Players under 23 years old and with less than years of professional baseball experience will be considered amateurs and count against the spending cap. That means guys like Yoenis Cespedes and Japanese veterans will be treated as a true free agents. Japanese players run through the posting system will not count against the cap.
- Players must register with MLB’s scouting bureau in order to be eligible to sign. That should cut down on the number of age and identity fraud cases. The top 100 prospects will be subject to drug testing.
- A worldwide baseball draft is a “significant possibility” by 2014, and there are incentives in place for both sides to negotiate terms in the future.
Long story short, the MLBPA sold out its future members for the sake of its current members. The draft and international spending limitations are severe and will drive young talent away from the game, and you’ll see legitimate two-sport guys like Zach Lee and Bubba Starling be pushed to college by the spending restrictions. Teams also have little incentive to run a baseball academy in Latin America now. We’ll see the real impact of these changes in five or ten years, when there’s a sudden lack of young talent and barely enough real athletes to play the middle infield. Anyway, here is the lest of the CBA news…
Draft Compensation Changes
- The following players are Type-A free agents but will be treated as Type-B free agents for the remainder of the offseason: Matt Capps, Francisco Cordero, Octavio Dotel, Ramon Hernandez, and Darren Oliver. A team will not have to give up a draft pick to sign them, and their old team will gain just one supplemental first rounder.
- The following players are Type-A free agents but will not be treated as “modified” Type-A free agents: Heath Bell, Michael Cuddyer, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Madson, Josh Willingham, and Francisco Rodriguez. A team will not lose a pick to sign them, however their old club will still receive two picks. One will be a first round one spot after the team that signs them, the second a supplemental first rounder.
- These changes can all be seen on our 2012 Draft Order page.
- Players must still be offered arbitration if their former club wants to receive draft pick compensation. The deadline to offer arbitration is tomorrow, by the way.
Blood Testing For HGH
- Players will be tested next Spring Training to determine their energy levels, and those test results will be discarded. Tests will be taken on non-gamedays unless the player volunteers to do it the day of a game. They’re essentially going to test the test, just to see how the players respond physically after giving blood.
- Once the two sides see how the players respond, they will then determine how and when to proceed with in-season testing. Offseason testing will begin next winter, and the tests will not be random. There has to be reasonable cause.
- Replay will be expanding to include fair-or-foul plays as well as “trapped” ball plays. MLB and the umpires’ union must still discuss the final details. Hooray for this.
- There will also be an “improved process for challenging official scorer decisions.” So now David Ortiz can complain about his RBI total without interrupting his manager’s press conference.
- Players will no longer be allowed to use those low-density maple bats that shatter and turn into dangerous sharp, flying objects.
- The Great Gazoo helmet, which Frankie Cervelli wears following all his concussions, will be mandatory by 2013. The new version will be less bulky and hilarious looking.
- The minimum salary will rise from $414k this past season to $480k next season, and it will climb to $500k by 2014.
- The top 22% of players (in terms of service time) with fewer than three years of MLB service will be considered Super Twos. Those folks are arbitration-eligible four times rather than three. It had been the top 17% previously.
New Policies & Programs
- A new tobacco policy will be instituted, preventing tobacco products from being visible during interviews, interactions with fans, etc. Uniformed personnel can still use chewing tobacco, but the can can’t be visible and a wad of chew in a player’s cheek will draw a slap on the wrist from the union.
- A “program of mandatory evaluation” is in place for players that commit alcohol-related offenses, including DUIs.
- There will be some kind of “social media policy,” basically taking all the fun out of MLB players on Twitter.
- Something called “market disqualification” says the top 15 markets will not be able to receive revenue sharing money by 2016, the final year of this deal.
- I can’t believe they actually had to write this into the CBA, but there is now a policy in place that protects union members from discrimination stemming from their sexual orientation.
- Participation in the All-Star Game is mandatory unless the player is injured or otherwise excused by the commissioner.
- Rosters will expand to 26 players for “certain regular or split doubleheaders.” I kinda like that.
- The extra wildcard team and expanded playoff setup will be instituted immediately, so there will be two wildcard clubs per league next season. It will in fact be a one-game playoff.
The owners get rather drastic spending restrictions on amateur players as well as expanded playoffs while the players get an increased minimum salary, more Super Twos, and better free agent compensation rules. Everyone wins … as long as you’re an owner or a union member.