Chosun Ilbo: Yankees scouting Korean 1B Byung-Ho Park

According to a Chosun Ilbo report passed along by our Sung-Min Kim, the Yankees are among the teams scouting Korean first baseman Byung-Ho Park. Various reports have indicated the Red Sox, Twins, and Pirates are among the other clubs scouting Park. The Korea Times previously reported 17 of the 30 MLB teams have watched him this year.

Park, 29, started his career in Korea with the LG Twins before being traded to the Nexen Heroes in the middle of the 2011 season. He broke out after the trade and has hit 30+ homers every year from 2012-15, including 52 last year and 47 this year. Park has twice been named KBO MVP (2012-13). Here are his career stats via Baseball Reference:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2005 18 -10.5 LG KBO 79 185 22 31 11 0 3 21 1 0 12 48 .190 .265 .313 .578
2006 19 -9.5 LG KBO 48 142 7 21 2 0 5 13 1 3 9 42 .162 .227 .292 .519
2007-08: Did Not Play (Military Service)
2009 22 -6.3 LG KBO 68 213 28 41 7 0 9 25 2 1 20 70 .218 .305 .399 .704
2010 23 -5.0 LG KBO 78 192 25 30 4 0 7 22 5 1 26 55 .188 .305 .344 .649
2011 24 -4.4 2 Teams KBO 66 230 31 51 11 2 13 31 2 0 26 76 .254 .343 .522 .866
2012 25 -3.3 Nexen KBO 133 560 76 136 34 0 31 105 20 9 73 111 .290 .393 .561 .954
2013 26 -2.5 Nexen KBO 128 556 91 143 17 0 37 117 10 2 92 96 .318 .437 .602 1.039
2014 27 -1.9 Nexen KBO 128 571 126 139 16 2 52 124 8 3 96 142 .303 .433 .686 1.119
2015 28 Nexen KBO 122 547 116 163 32 1 47 134 9 2 68 137 .351 .442 .727 1.169
All Levels (9 Seasons) 850 3196 522 755 134 5 204 592 58 21 422 777 .281 .387 .563 .950

Yep, Park’s a slugger. Lots of dingers and also lots of strikeouts, apparently. He had a 25.0% strikeout rate this year and 24.8% last year in a league where the average strikeout rate is 18.8%, so right away that’s a bit of a red flag. Jung-Ho Kang, Park’s former teammate with Nexen, never had a strikeout rate higher than 21.2% in Korea, for example.

There are no good freely available scouting reports of Park available, so we have to stick to the basics. He stands 6-foot-1 and 194 lbs., both bats and throws right-handed, and his home run total suggests he has some power. The strikeout totals suggest Park also has some holes in his swing. Remember, he’s been striking out in a quarter of his plate appearances against KBO caliber pitching, which is several notches below MLB pitching.

Kang has been tremendously successful with the Pirates this season — he went into last night’s game hitting .287/.357/.469 (132 wRC+) with 15 homers and a 20.6% strikeout rate — which is going to lead to teams taking a much longer look at Korean position players in the future. Yoenis Cespedes really helped kick the door open for Cuban players and Kang could do the same for Korean players. Twenty-nine teams are wondering why they missed on him.

Yonhap News reported earlier this year that Park wants to come over to MLB after the season, though he will not be a free agent. The Heroes will have to agree to make him available via the posting system. The posting agreement with KBO is the old NPB system, meaning teams submit blind bids then win a 30-day negotiating window. The MLB team only has to pay the posting fee if they sign the player.

The Pirates landed Kang with a $5M posting fee and a measly four-year contract worth $11M. Total steal. Prices for Korean players are only going to climb though. That’s how these things usual work. They don’t get cheaper. I have no idea what kind of posting fee will be required to win Park’s rights and I have even less of an idea of what kind of contract it will take to get him signed. Total guesswork.

Now, that said, what would the Yankees do with Park? He’s a first baseman and a first baseman only. Mark Teixeira is signed through next year and Greg Bird is poised to be his long-term replacement. The Yankees also have Alex Rodriguez under contract through 2017, so they don’t need a DH either. Maybe Park’s athletic enough to play the outfield, or maybe they consider him a better long-term option than Bird. Who knows? Either way, we’ll hear more about Park this offseason. I’m sure of it.

International Signings: Medina, Garcia, Espinosa, Jimenez

The 2015-16 international signing period opened on July 2nd, just as it does every year, except this year the Yankees were effectively shut out from the top available talent. As a result of last year’s spending spree, the team can not sign a player to a bonus larger than $300,000 during both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods.

That’s okay, the Yankees signed about three years worth of top talent last summer, plus they are very good at finding under-the-radar prospects. Both Luis Severino ($225,000) and Jorge Mateo ($250,000) signed for relatively small bonuses, for example. Anyway, the Yankees did indeed sign several international prospects this year. Here’s the little bit of bonus and scouting information I could dig up.

The Top Prospect: RHP Luis Medina

Medina, 16, is the best prospect the Yankees have signed this signing period, as far as I can tell. He received a $280,000 bonus plus a $120,000 scholarship according to the Dominican Prospect League. Kiley McDaniel got a firsthand look at Medina late last year. Here’s his write-up:

The best of a so-so group of pitchers that made the trip was RHP Luis Medina.  He sat 89-91 and hit 94 mph in a short outing but one scout told me he saw Medina a few weeks before and he sat 93-95, hitting 96 mph.  It obviously isn’t a super clean or polished delivery, but the frame has some projection, the arm works, he has some feel to spin an average or better curveball and the arm speed is elite.  There predictably isn’t much of a changeup at this stage either, but Medina looks like a sure seven figure guy right now and there’s time for him to develop some starter traits before signing.

Obviously the seven-figure thing didn’t happen. Medina, like most non-elite prospects his age, is very raw and a work in progress. He has good velocity and a quick arm, so that’s a good start. He has the unteachables. Now the Yankees need to help Medina refine his offspeed stuff and command.

Known Bonuses

In addition to Medina, bonus information for four other Yankees signees has been reported. RHP Deivi Garcia signed for $100,000 according to MYN Baseball RD, while C Robert Espinosa, IF Brian Jimenez, and OF Vinicio Martinez all received $50,000 bonuses. Espinosa also received a $60,000 scholarship. That all comes from the Dominican Prospect League. Each team gets six $50,000 bonus exemptions that do not count against their bonus pool, so Espinosa, Jimenez, and Martinez take half of those slots. Garcia’s the lucky one. He got six figures.

Unknown Bonuses

The Yankees also signed 16-year-old LHP Heiner Moreno out of a prospect camp in Panama, MLB announced. His bonus is unknown. Matt Eddy reported a slew of signings without bonus information: 3B Sandy Acevedo, 2B Diego Duran, RHP Rony Garcia, SS Jesus Graterol, LHP Argelis Herrera, SS Brayan Jimenez, C Moises Lobo, SS Kleiber Maneiro, RHP Alex Mejias, RHP Luis Ojeda, RHP Elvis Peguero, and 3B Alfred Pujols. I would love to tell you more about each and every one of these players, but I can’t do it. No information to be found. That’s par for the course when it comes to non-top international guys.

* * *

The Yankees were allotted a $2.2628M bonus pool for international free agency this summer. They spent $380,000 of that on Heredia and Garcia. Who knows how much all of those other players received though. There are 13 players in that “Unknown Bonuses” section and I’m sure some of them received a decent chunk of change. The Yankees can also trade their four international slots, but they don’t have much value. Bonus slots been included as throw-ins and instead of players to be named later in trades around the league. Hopefully we get more information about all these kids the Yankees signed at some point. I’m sure we will … eventually.

Saturday Links: Castro, A-Rod, Draft, Ibanez, Heredia

Starlin ... and Manny! (Presswire)
Starlin … and Manny! (Presswire)

The Yankees and Red Sox continue their three-game series later tonight. So, until then, here are some spare links I had lying around to hold you over.

Start the Starlin Castro rumor mill

According to Jon Heyman, several executive are speculating the Yankees will pursue Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro due to his connection to Jim Hendry, currently a special assistant with New York who was the Cubs GM when the team signed (and called up) Castro. Just to be clear, Heyman is passing along speculation, not a hard rumor that the Yankees are pursuing Castro.

Anyway, I wanted the Yankees to acquire Castro in the offseason to play shortstop, so of course he is hitting .249/.282/.323 (63 wRC+) on the season. (Reminder: Don’t ever listen to me. I’m awful.) Castro is still only 25 though, and he did hit .292/.339/.438 (115 wRC+) just last year, so it’s not like there’s nothing to like here. There’s about $43M left on his contract through 2019 with a club option for 2020.

Castro is seen as a change of scenery guy — the Cubs surely want to put Addison Russell at short — but he’s not a shortstop, his defense is terrible, so maybe the Yankees look at him for second base. If so, the move would probably wait until the offseason. I doubt they’d throw him to the wolves defensively and make him learn second on the fly a la Stephen Drew last year. Either way, my guess is we’ll hear lots more about the Yankees and Castro in the coming weeks and months.

The real cost of A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit ball

Last week, the Yankees agreed to donate $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball in exchange for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th hit baseball. Noted ballhawk Zack Hample caught the ball and leveraged it into a big fat donation for a charity he supports. Good for him. Of course, there’s much more to this story. Hample told Shawn Anderson the Yanks gave him a ton of other stuff in exchange for the ball as well:

“The Yankees have given me all the things they initially offered, such as meeting A-Rod, doing a press conference at Yankee Stadium, being interviewed live during the game on TV and the radio, and receiving signed memorabilia and free tickets, including tickets to this year’s Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in Cincinnati.” Hample told The Hall exclusively. “I will also have opportunities to write for Yankees Magazine, get a special behind-the-scenes tour to the most restricted areas of the stadium that no one in the public gets to see, get to meet the players, and more. There are certain things I’ve been asked not to talk about, so I need to respect that.”

Geez, that was one mighty valuable baseball, huh? Give Hample props for holding out for the donation rather than taking all that cool free stuff and running. That’s probably what I would have done.

2015 Draft signing updates

Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)
Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)

The signing deadline for the 2015 draft is next Friday, and the Yankees recently signed both UC Santa Barbara C/RHP Paddy O’Brien (24th round) and Indiana RHP Christian Morris (33rd). Morris announced his signing on Twitter while O’Brien is currently listed on the Rookie GCL Yanks2 roster. No word on their bonuses but I assume they didn’t receive more than the $100,000 slot for picks after the tenth round. O’Brien was a catcher in college who the Yankees are apparently going to try on the mound because he has a strong arm.

By my count the Yankees have signed 33 of their 41 draft picks, which is an unusually large number. Teams usually sign something like 25-30 picks each year. The Yankees will make it 34 of 41 when they sign UCLA RHP James Kaprielian (1st) next week — Jim Callis backed up Heyman’s recent report and says Kaprielian will get an overslot bonus in the $3M range — which I’m confident will happen. The Yankees have a bit more than $3M to spend before getting hit with penalties and there’s nowhere else to spend it — the late-round overslot candidates probably aren’t going to sign at this point — so that money either goes to Kaprielian or Hal Steinbrenner.

Rangers sign Andy Ibanez

Earlier this week the Rangers signed free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez to a minor league contract worth $1.6M, reports Jeff Wilson and Jesse Sanchez. Ibanez, 21, was cleared to sign way back in February but took his sweet time picking a team. The Yankees had him in Tampa for a private workout in May and were reportedly interested, though they were unable to offer him anything more than $300,000 once the 2014-15 international signing period ended a few weeks ago. Ibanez is a light hitting second baseman who was expected to get upwards of $15M, though it sounds like teams didn’t value him that highly. You have to think he would have topped $1.6M easily if clubs felt he was as good as the public scouting reports.

Cuban OF Guillermo Heredia cleared to sign

According to Ben Badler and Jesse Sanchez, 24-year-old Cuban outfielder Guillermo Heredia has been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and declared a free agent by MLB, so he can sign with any team at any time. Heredia is not subject to the international spending restrictions because of his age, so the Yankees and any other team can offer him any amount.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 lbs., Heredia is considered a good defensive center fielder with speed and a strong arm. Badler (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 11th best prospect in Cuba last August and said he has “similarities to a righthanded-hitting version of Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley,” which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement these days. Heredia will work out for scouts soon.

Sanchez: 2014-15 international signing period now closed

Martinez. (MLB.com)
Martinez. (MLB.com)

According to Jesse Sanchez, the 2014-15 international signing period closed at midnight last night. It was reported weeks ago that the signing period closed on June 25th, but, like most things with the international market, that report was off slightly. Anyway, the Yankees can no longer sign an international prospect and have the bonus applied to the 2014-15 signing period.

Sanchez says the Yankees “made a run” at free agent Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez, who was cleared to sign a few weeks ago, prior to the end of the signing period last night. Martinez, 20, has been described as an “impact talent” and the Yankees were interested in signing him following his recent workouts. He’ll now wait until the 2015-16 signing period opens July 2nd to sign.

As far as we know the Yankees did not sign any last minute free agents prior to the end of the signing period, though there weren’t many available either. The big names in addition to Martinez are Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez and Bahamian SS Lucius Fox. That’s about it. Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez was not eligible to sign during the 2014-15 signing period.

Because the Yankees blew their bonus pool out of the water during the 2014-15 signing period — we don’t have an exact number, but the bonuses and penalties are around $30M total — the Yankees will be unable to sign any player to a bonus in excess of $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing period. They won’t be able to make a serious play for any big name prospects.

The Yankees will, however, still be able to sign older Cuban free agents should any come stateside these next two years. And by older I mean age 23+ per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Yeah, younger guys are more desirable, but Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Abreu, Yasmany Tomas, and Rusney Castillo were among the big name “older” Cuban free agents in recent years. The Yankees won’t be completely shut out of the top of the international market the next two signing periods.

Saturday Links: Stottlemyre, Betances, Didi, Mock Drafts

Stottlemyre during his playing days. (Presswire)
Stottlemyre during his playing days. (Presswire)

Once again, the Yankees are playing a Saturday night game this week, though at least this one is on the East Coast. Including tonight, their next three and four of their next five Saturday games are night games. Blah. Anyway, here are some links to hold you over until the Yankees and Angels resume their series later tonight.

Mel Stottlemyre Battling Cancer Again

Former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre is again battling cancer, reports John Harper. The 73-year-old Stottlemyre was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, while on Joe Torre’s staff back in 2000, and he was told he only had 3-5 years to live. He’s outshot that projection by a decade, but the cancer returned in late-2011 and he has been undergoing treatment since.

“It’s been tough because so much of my life is controlled by doctors, by the cancer. And the side effects of the treatment have been nasty, there’s no getting around it. But I’m determined that I can beat this thing. There are times when I have my doubts but it’s not going to get me down,” said Stottlemyre to Harper. Among the side effects from the medication are heart and thyroid conditions, and a form of diabetes. He also has an Achilles tendon issue, but can’t undergo surgery due to chemotherapy.

Despite the cancer and the treatment, Stottlemyre said he is going to try to make it to Yankee Stadium for Old Timers’ Day later this month. “I want to be there in the worst way,” he said. His wife Jean said they are going to try to attend as well, though the travel from their home in Washington might be too much. Either way, let’s hope for the best for Stottlemyre, a longtime cancer survivor who is trying to do it again.

Betances Gets Pointers From Rivera

Earlier this season, when Dellin Betances was really struggling with his command, the big right-hander got some pointers from Mariano Rivera, writes Kevin Kernan. “Towards the beginning of the season when I was struggling early on, Mo told me a couple of pointers that really helped,” said Betances. “He told me he felt like my front shoulder was flying open and he offered some tips. I dropped the shoulder a little bit to stay within a straight line and have a good direction towards home, and I think that has helped me be more successful and more consistent.’’

Betances said Rivera also reminded him to “stay locked in and have confidence,” even while struggling. “Hearing that from him makes such a difference. I’ve been able to use that advice to my advantage,” he added. Dellin’s numbers since his early-April struggles are insane — he went into last night’s game with five hits and six walks allowed in his last 24 innings, with 43 strikeouts. Bonkers. Somehow Betances has been even better than last year. If only Rivera’s words had that much of an impact on everyone.

Gregorius Gets Pointers From A-Rod, Beltran

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Meanwhile, the Yankees have turned to two current veteran players to help shortstop Didi Gregorius, who has improved at the plate lately but has struggled overall. In addition to hitting coach Jeff Pentland and assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell, both Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran have been helping Gregorius in recent weeks, reports George King. “Alex and Carlos had a big hand in talking to Didi,’’ said Pentland.

“You have to have the same approach in the batting cage that you do in the game, and that was something that was missing to me. He is the guy who has to go out and do it. Hopefully he has found something to work with,” said Beltran, who added he considers helping young players part of a veteran’s job. Both Beltran and A-Rod encouraged Gregorius to be “more selective in the (strike) zone” as well. This is the second time Rodriguez has lent a hand coaching Didi — he worked with him at shortstop a few weeks go.

Yankees Invite Whitley For Private Workout

According to Dan Zielinksi, the Yankees had New York HS OF Garrett Whitley in for a private workout before Monday’s draft. (Whitley said he worked out for the Braves and Brewers as well.) I’m not sure if the workout took place in Yankee Stadium or in Tampa, but that doesn’t really matter. Here’s my profile on Whitley, a projected first round pick and one of the highest upside players in the draft. Pre-draft workouts are not uncommon but teams don’t invite just anyone either — they’re usually reserved for players clubs have significant interest in, and, more than anything, the workout is so more members of the brain trust can see the player, including the higher ups. There’s no word on who else the Yankees brought in for a pre-draft workout.

Baseball Prospectus’ Mock Draft v2.0

Over at Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d), Chris Crawford posted his second mock draft yesterday, and, like everyone else, he has the Diamondbacks taking Vanderbilt SS Dansby Swanson with the first overall pick. That’s not set in stone just yet, but it sure looks like Arizona is leaning in that direction. Crawford has the Yankees selecting Whitley and California HS C Chris Betts with their top two picks, 16th and 30th overall, respectively. Here’s my profile on Betts. (The Whitley profile is linked above.) The Yankees have been connected to both players for weeks now. There’s a decent chance Whitley will be off the board by time that 16th pick comes around, but Betts should still be available.

MLB.com’s Mock Draft v4.0

Meanwhile, Jim Callis posted his latest mock draft yesterday as well. He also has the D’Backs taking Swanson with the top pick. As for the Yankees, Callis has them picking UCLA RHP James Kaprielian and Betts with those 16th and 30th overall picks, respectively. Here’s my profile on Kaprielian. (Again, the Betts profile is linked above.) Callis says the Yankees “want a college pitcher,” but we’ve also heard they want a bat, so who really knows. This draft is very deep in right-handed pitchers, both high school and college, so the best available player for that 16th pick could easily be an arm.

Four Players To Attend 2015 Draft

According to MLB, four players will be at the MLB Network studios for the draft broadcast on Monday: Whitley, Florida HS SS Brendan Rodgers, Indiana HS RHP Ashe Russell, and Pennsylvania HS RH Mike Nikorak. Rodgers is a likely top five pick — he was a candidate to go first overall, but apparently the D’Backs want a quick moving college player — while the Yankees have been connected to the other three guys at various points these last few weeks. Here are my profiles for Russell and Nikorak. Look up a few paragraphs for the Whitley profile. It would be pretty neat if the Yankees drafted a kid who was actually in the studio, wouldn’t it?

Ibanez Changes Agents

Free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez recently changed agents, according to Ben Badler. Ibanez left Praver Shapiro Sports Management and is now represented by Relativity Sports. He has been eligible to sign since February, but Badler says Ibanez is likely to wait to sign until after July 2nd so his bonus (and penalties) get pushed to the 2015-16 signing period. The Yankees have shown some interest in Ibanez, a 22-year-old light hitting/good fielding second baseman, but if he waits until July 2nd, they’ll have no shot to sign him. Part of the penalties for last year’s international spending spree is a bonus cap of $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, and $300,000 won’t be enough for Ibanez.

Sunday Links: A-Rod Promo, Eddy Julio Martinez, Drew

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Yankees and Rangers wrap-up their three-game series later tonight with the ESPN Sunday Night Game. Sigh. Getting sick of all these late Sunday games. Anyway, here are a handful of links to hold you over until first pitch.

Minor league team apologizes for A-Rod “juice” box promotion

On Friday, the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs (Rays) scheduled an Alex Rodriguez “juice” box promotion for their game against the Tampa Yankees. The team was going to hand out juice boxes labeled “The Sports Drink: 100% Juiced. Side Affects include: tainted records, inflated ego, omission from the Hall of Fame, and more!”

First of all, an A-Rod steroids joke? I award you no points for creativity. Secondly, Marc Topkin reports both the Yankees and Rays objected to the promotion, so it was cancelled. The Stone Crabs then issued an apology, according to Topkin. Here’s part of the text:

“On behalf of our entire organization I apologize to the New York Yankees, our affiliate club the Tampa Bay Rays, and all fans who may have taken offense,” said Stone Crabs General Manager, Jared Forma.  “While our intent was to raise awareness for the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition and the Salvation Army, we realize this promotion may have been offensive to many and for that we are sorry and have decided to cancel the promotion.  The Stone Crabs organization has the utmost respect for the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays organizations and wishes both organizations only the best in the future.”

Yeah, that probably wasn’t a good idea. It’s fine to hate A-Rod, most do, but an affiliated minor league club scheduling a promotion mocking an active player? That’s not going to sit well with the team, the league, and the MLBPA. Better luck next time.

Yankees among teams interested in Cuban OF Eddy Julio Martinez

According to Jesse Sanchez, the Yankees are one of several teams interested in free agent Cuban center fielder Eddy Julio Martinez, who has already been cleared to sign by MLB and the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Sanchez says Martinez is in showcase mode right now — he’s held several workouts for scouts and has a few more scheduled.

Martinez, 20, has been described as an “impact talent” according to Kiley McDaniel, who says he has 70 speed and 50 power on the 20-80 scouting scale. Jeff Passan hears Martinez’s signing bonus could approach $10M. There’s no indication whether Martinez is ready to sign, but he is subject to the international spending pools, so the Yankees can offer him any amount until June 25th, the final day of the 2014-15 signing period. If Martinez doesn’t sign by then, New York can only offer him $300,000 due to the penalties from last year’s international spending spree.

I don’t know much about Martinez at all, just what’s in this post basically, but, as always, I am pro adding young up-the-middle talent at all times. The Yankees have dipped their toe in the Cuban market the last few years but have yet to dive in — they attend showcases and invite players in for private workouts, but have yet to pull the trigger and sign one. Their last notable Cuban signing was Jose Contreras more than a decade ago.

(In other Cuban player news, Ben Badler reports highly touted 21-year RHP Norge Ruiz has left the island, but the Yankees won’t have a shot to sign him because he won’t be cleared until well after June 25th.)

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

For first time, Cashman noncommittal about Drew’s job security

A few weeks ago, when Stephen Drew was scuffling offensively but playing solid defense, Brian Cashman told Andrew Marchand the team was not considering a change at second base. “No. I think Drew’s been fine,” said the GM. “Right now, I’m not looking at anyone being an alternative at second base to Drew. I’m surprised you asked the question.”

Now, in late-May, Drew is still scuffling at the plate and playing solid defense, and, for the first time, Cashman indicated Drew’s job may not be set in stone. “(Drew has) got rope, but if someone pushes his way into the mix, so be it,” said Cashman to Joel Sherman yesterday. “I am open to having Drew all year or someone else taking this if they can. I can’t predict what is going to happen.”

That someone would be Rob Refsnyder, who continues to tear the cover off the ball for Triple-A Scranton after shaking off his slow start. His defense is pretty bad, so he’d fit right in with the Yankees (hardy har har), but at least there’s a shot at an offensive upgrade. Drew’s been terrible at the plate, has been going back to last season, and his leash shouldn’t be all that long. Slade Heathcott is doing well in his very (very) limited big league cameo. Maybe that will make the Yankees more willing to roll with another young player.

Yankees held private workout for Andy Ibanez in Tampa this week

Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)
Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)

According to George King and Dan Martin, the Yankees held a private workout for free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez at their complex in Tampa earlier this week. The team also scouted him during a workout in Miami last month.

Ibanez, 21, has already been declared a free agent by MLB and unblocked by a Office of Foreign Assets Control, so he is free to sign at any time. King and Martin say he is expected to get a bonus in the $10M neighborhood, which would be taxed at 100% regardless of which team signs him. That would exceed all 30 bonus pools.

Before defecting, Ibanez hit .283/.348/.419 with 60 doubles and 13 home runs in 242 games in the Cuban league. He was on Cuba’s roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic but rode the bench in the deference to their veteran infielders. Here’s a scouting report from Ben Badler:

At 5-foot-11, 183 pounds, Ibanez has a thicker build for a middle infielder but he’s athletic and has good body control. With fringy speed and an average arm at best, Ibanez isn’t flashy, but he has a good internal clock and a high baseball IQ, fitting best at second base. Ibanez’s power is mostly to the gaps, projecting as a doubles hitters rather than a big home run threat, but what’s sold some scouts on him is his bat.

“He’s a strong guy who doesn’t have your prototype, ideal body for a second baseman, but he moves around well for his stature,” said another scout. “And he performs. He’s a good hitter. I liked his swing and the way he manipulated the bat.”

Ibanez is subject to the international spending restrictions, so the Yankees are free to sign him for any amount prior to June 25th. But, after that, they will only be able to offer him $300,000 as a result of the penalties from last July’s international spending spree. I’m not sure why Ibanez is waiting to sign. You’d think he’d want to sign quickly and start playing in the minors to get his career underway.

Inviting Ibanez in for a private workout really doesn’t mean much of anything. The Yankees had Aledmys Diaz in for a private workout last year and they had Yoan Moncada in for three separate private workouts this offseason, but didn’t sign either player. It’s been a while since the Yankees signed a premium Cuban player. Jose Contreras was the last.

Ibanez is not on the same level as Moncada but he has some ability and is expected to be able to help at the MLB level in the near future. Accumulating middle infield depth is always a good thing, and that goes double for the Yankees, since it’s unclear if they have a long-term shortstop or second baseman in the organization right now. (The jury is still out on Didi Gregorius and Rob Refsnyder.)

Until the Yankees actually step up and sign a top Cuban free agent, I won’t expect them to do it. They’ve done the song and dance with several players in recent years — Diaz, Moncada, Yasmany Tomas, Yoan Lopez, and others — but didn’t sign any of them. These private workouts are fake interest until they sign one of these guys, as far as I’m concerned.