International free agency rules may stand in the way of Shohei Otani being posted this offseason

(Masterpress/Getty)
(Masterpress/Getty)

According to J.J. Cooper, MLB’s international free agency rules may prevent the Nippon Ham Fighters from posting right-hander Shohei Otani this offseason. Otani is still only 22, which means if he comes over this winter, he’d only be able to sign a minor league contract. He still qualifies as an international amateur and would count against the bonus pool. Even through the posting process.

Furthermore, because the Yankees are still subject to the penalties from their 2014-15 international spending spree, they would only be able to offer Otani a $300,000 bonus. Obviously that won’t be enough to sign him. The Red Sox, Dodgers, and Angels are in the same boat. Otani doesn’t turn 23 until next July too, so it’s not a matter of waiting a few extra weeks.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on December 1st, so it’s possible the international free agency rules will change and make it more realistic for Otani to be posted. That seems unlikely though. Every change made to international free agency these days further limits spending. There’s no reason to think that’ll change this time around.

Otani would be, by far, the best available pitcher this winter. The (Ham) Fighters could still post him, but they know he’s not going to sign a minor league contract, so there’s no real point. They figure to instead keep him one more year, then post him next offseason, when he’ll be able to sign a contract of any size at age 23. We’ll see. Maybe the upcoming CBA will change things for the better.

This season Otani had a 1.86 ERA with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings while also hitting .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers in 382 plate appearances. The consensus is his future is much brighter on the mound, though when it comes time to sign him, the team that gives Otani the chance to pitch and hit may be the one that gets him.

Thursday Notes: Beltran, Blue Jays, IFAs, Qualifying Offer

(Vaughn Ridley/Getty)
(Vaughn Ridley/Getty)

There are, at most, ten more baseball games left this season. It could be as few as six. That stinks. The offseason is fun in it’s own way, but nothing is better than actual games. That’s why we all watch. Anyway, make sure you check out MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook: New York Yankees post. Nice little rundown of what could happen this winter. Here are some other news and notes.

Blue Jays had interest in Beltran

The Blue Jays had interest in Carlos Beltran prior to the trade deadline, reports Gerry Fraley. Toronto skipper John Gibbons confirmed the club considered a run at Beltran this summer. “Beltran was a guy we even talked about. We saw him over the years with the Yankees and what a great hitter he was, a clutch type performer,” said Gibbons prior to the start of the ALDS.

The Red Sox also reportedly tried to acquire Beltran prior to the deadline, and just like with Boston, it’s unclear whether the Yankees would have actually gone through with an intra-division trade with the Blue Jays. Toronto’s farm system is not nearly as good as the Red Sox’s, though I’m sure the two sides could have found a match if they really set their mind to it. The Blue Jays scored eight runs in the five-game ALCS — five of the eight came in Game Four — and they clearly needed another bat. Beltran would have been able to help. No doubt.

MLB pushing for international draft

To no surprise whatsoever, MLB is pushing for an international draft as part of Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations with MLBPA, reports Buster Olney. MLB has wanted an international draft for years now — it’s a way to keep costs down for owners, that’s the only goal here — but the union has yet to give in. I wonder if this will be the year though. Here are some more details from Olney:

Under the terms of MLB’s initial concept, the new international draft system would start in March of 2018, with a 10-round draft held over two days. As the new structure evolved, with terms grandfathered into the process, the minimum age for draft-eligible players would be 18 years old by 2021 … As part of baseball’s proposal, MLB would operate facilities in the Dominican Republic, where international draft prospects would be invited to live to develop their skills and education before becoming eligible.

Two things. One, those kids are going to have to wait two more years to get their payday, no matter how large or small it may be. That sucks. Right now they can sign at 16. Under this proposal they have to wait until they’re 18. And two, this is yet another incentive for teams to be bad. Bad clubs already get the largest draft bonus pools and protected picks. Now they’ll get access to the top international talent without worrying about other clubs offering more money.

This proposal — thankfully that’s all this is right now, a proposal — is great for the teams and owners. They’ll save money and also get two extra years to evaluate these kids before deciding whether to sign to them. It stinks for the players, who have to wait to get paid and risk having their skills erode before they can cash in. You have no idea how many kids sign at 16 only to then fill out physically and lose the electric athleticism that got them paid. An international draft is inevitable. Hopefully MLBPA doesn’t relent this CBA and we get a few more years of true free agency.

Qualifying offer system could change with CBA

The qualifying offer system may also be revamped with the new CBA, reports Joel Sherman. The QO isn’t going away, but the MLB and the MLBPA may make it so players can not receive the QO in consecutive years. That means the Orioles wouldn’t be able to get a draft pick for Matt Wieters this offseason since they gave him the QO last offseason, which he accepted. Something like that.

I can’t imagine MLB and MLBPA will ever completely severe ties between the draft and free agency — they don’t want rich teams to have access to the best free agents and first round talent — so this might be the next best thing. If this proposal goes through, you might see some more players sign one-year contracts so they can go back out on the market with no draft pick attached. I think most guys will look to grab the largest payday as soon as possible though. Being set for life financial is pretty cool, I hear.

Saturday Links: Mateo, Instructs, Gurriel, Refsnyder

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Red Sox will continue their four-game series with the third game later this afternoon. Here are some bits of news and notes to hold you over.

Mateo among Law’s most disappointing prospects

After blazing start to the season with High-A Tampa, shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo hit a wall in June and never really recovered. He finished the year with a thoroughly disappointing .254/.306/.379 (99 wRC+) batting line despite setting a new career high with eight homers. Mateo went 36-for-51 (71%) in steal attempts one year after going 82-for-99 (83%).

It’s no surprise then that Mateo is one of eight top 100 prospects who took a step back this season, according to Keith Law (subs. req’d). “Getting suspended for two weeks for an unspecified violation of team rules was just the tip of the iceberg … multiple scouts have told me they haven’t seen Mateo make anywhere near enough hard contact,” said his write-up. “(The Yankees) seem to have soured a little on his makeup and have clearly superior shortstop options elsewhere in the system.”

The Yankees were ready to trade Mateo to the Padres for Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline last year and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them shop him for pitching this offseason. They have a ton of shortstops in the farm system, including the superior Gleyber Torres, and Mateo still has enough top prospect shine to headline a package for a quality young pitcher. Right now I think there’s better than a 50/50 chance Mateo is traded this winter. We’ll see.

Instructional League roster released

Earlier this week Baseball America (no subs. req’d) posted the Yankees’ Instructional League roster. Instructs start later this month and run through mid-November. The roster looks the same as always. Some top prospects but mostly recent draftees and international signees, and players who missed time to injury. Blake Rutherford is apparently healthy enough for Instructs after missing the end of the season with a hamstring injury, so that’s cool.

Yesterday we heard James Kaprielian faced hitters for the first time since being shut down with an elbow injury way back in April. He’s not on the Instructional League roster but could always be added and get some innings there. The Yankees want Kaprielian to pitch in the Arizona Fall League and Instructs would be a natural stepping stone. Also, Greg Bird will face living pitching in Instructional League for the first time since shoulder surgery. He’s not on the roster but that might have to do with the fact he’s technically a rehabbing big leaguer, not a minor leaguer.

Gurriel holds showcase for MLB teams

Cuban infield prospect Lourdes Gurriel Jr. held a workout for teams earlier this week in Panama City, reports Jesse Sanchez. There were 60 scouts in attendance and Gurriel did the usual: fielded ground balls, shagged fly balls, took batting practice, ran sprints, that sort of stuff. “I have been waiting for this moment and now it became a reality. This was my first step to the big leagues, God willing. I’m grateful for everyone who helped me get to this point,” he said.

Sanchez said scouts were impressed by Gurriel’s arm and physicality, though the consensus is he needs more at-bats against live pitching. I mean, duh. He hasn’t played in a competitive game in almost a year now. The expectation has always been that Gurriel will need to spend some time in the minors before helping a big league team, the same way his brother did. Yulieski, by the way, has hit .329/.350/.500 (129 wRC+) with three homers in his first 22 games with the Astros, so that’s going well.

Lourdes is not Yoan Moncada, but he’s pretty darn good. He’s working out for teams now even though he won’t sign until he turns 23 next month. Once he turns 23 he will no longer be subject to the league’s international spending restrictions, so teams can pay him whatever they want. The Yankees haven’t signed a big name Cuban player in a long time, not since Jose Contreras, so I really have no reason to think they’ll sign Gurriel. Maybe they’ll surprise me.

Refsnyder nominated for Marvin Miller award

Rob Refsnyder is the Yankees’ nominee for this year’s Marvin Miller Man of the Year award, the MLBPA announced earlier this week. The award is given annually to the player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community inspire others to higher levels of achievement.” Fans can vote to select one finalist from each division. Here’s the ballot.

Refsnyder, who was born in South Korea and adopted by a family in California when he was three months old, has been helping raise money for a charity called A Kid’s Place, which helps Tampa area children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. Refsnyder designed and is selling a t-shirt through Athletes Brand, with all the proceeds this month going to the charity. Pretty awesome. Well done, Ref.

Saturday Links: Playoffs, Tebow, Garcia, Yankee Stadium

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Orioles will continue their ultra-important three-game series at Camden Yards later tonight. Saturday night games are just the worst, aren’t they? Blah. Anyway, here are some links to help you pass the time.

MLB announces postseason schedule

A few days ago MLB announced the 2016 postseason schedule, and despite the first four months of the season, the Yankees are still hanging around in the wildcard race. Here’s the portion of the postseason schedule potentially relevant to the Yankees:

  • AL Wild Card Game: Tuesday, October 4th (on TBS)
  • ALDS A: Thursday, October 6th through Wednesday, October 12th (on TBS)
  • ALCS: Friday, October 14th through Sunday, October 23rd (on TBS)
  • World Series: Tuesday, October 25th through Wednesday, November 2nd (on FOX)

The AL has homefield advantage in the World Series this year, remember. I assume a tiebreaker game would be played the day before the Wild Card Game. What happens if there’s a three or four-team tie? Not sure. Kinda hope we find out. I explained the tiebreaker procedures in yesterday’s mailbag. Here’s the full postseason schedule.

Yankees attended Tebow’s workout

According to multiple reports, the Yankees had a scout on hand for Tim Tebow’s workout at USC earlier this week. Ken Davidoff says there were 42 scouts representing 28 teams in attendance — the Cubs and Athletics were the only no-shows — but no high-ranking evaluators. Just area scouts. Tebow did the usual. Running, throwing, live batting practice, the works. Here’s a little bit of video:

I don’t have any problem with Tebow or anyone else giving baseball a try. If he can do it, more power to him. He played in high school and is obviously a great athlete, and based on the video he didn’t seem completely out of place on a baseball field. I just wonder about things like pitch recognition and outfield/baserunning instincts, the stuff that gets honed through repetition. This guy’s been away from the game for 12 years now. Also, how will his minor league teammates receive him? I don’t see this as Tebow taking someone’s job, but the players might.

Jose Garcia leaves Cuba

Outfielder Jose Adolis Garcia, brother of ex-Yankees farmhand and current Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia, has defected from Cuba, reports Ben Badler. The 24-year-old still has to go through the process of being declared a free agent and all that, which could take months. Badler ranked Garcia as the 20th best prospect in Cuba last year (subs. req’d). Here’s a piece of his most recent scouting report:

(Garcia) was one of the most tooled-up players in Cuba, with 60 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale and a plus-plus arm … he has played center field during international tournaments and looked comfortable there, with the tools and athleticism that should allow him to play center field in pro ball … At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Garcia has quick bat speed from the right side of the plate  … his long swing, free-swinging approach and struggles to recognize offspeed pitches are significant concerns about his ability to perform against better pitching.

Meh. That sounds almost exactly like a right-handed Leonys Martin, though, if I’m remembering correctly, there weren’t a ton of questions about Martin’s bat when he defected. No one expected him to be an MVP or anything, but he could hit. The Yankees haven’t been all that active on the big money Cuban market since Jose Contreras, and while up-the-middle players are always worth checking out, this tiny little bit of information makes Garcia seem like a non-priority.

Yankees looking to refinance stadium payments

The Yankees are looking to refinance about $1 billion worth of debt from the construction of Yankee Stadium, report Josh Kosman and Lois Weiss. They’re trying to get a better interest rate, basically. Happens all the time. Businesses do this regularly and so do regular folks. They refinance their mortgages, their car loans, whatever. The team’s stadium debt payments are $73M a year. They’re slated to rise to $76M in 2018.

“He’s always looking for ways to cut expenses,” said one of Kosman’s and Weiss’ sources, referring to Hal Steinbrenner. That’ll be misconstrued as Hal being cheap, but it just means he’s like every other business owner on the planet. Kosman and Weiss say the Yankees are breaking even financially right now, but that’s just the team itself. They’re still making a boatload of cash from YES and Legends Hospitality, among other things. Don’t worry, the Yankees won’t go broke anytime soon.

International Signing News: Contreras, Torres, Torrealba

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

As always, the 2016-17 international signing period opened on July 2nd this year, and pretty much all of the top prospects wound up signing with the Padres. San Diego went on a massive Yankees-esque spending spree that has seen them pay out more than $27M in bonuses already. They’ll have to pay a near equal amount in tax too.

The Yankees, meanwhile, are still dealing with the penalties stemming from that 2014-15 spending spree. They’re unable to sign anyone to a bonus larger than $300,000 this signing period. That’s okay. The Yankees brought in a ton of talent back in 2014, and they’re pretty good at finding talent on the cheap. Both Jorge Mateo ($225,000) and Luis Severino ($250,000) signed for relative peanuts back in the day.

This signing period the Yankees had a $2,177,100 bonus pool to play with internationally. Also, any bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count against the pool. Teams can hand out as many of those as they want. Here is a recap of the Yankees’ international signings since the current signing period opened on July 2nd.

The Top Prospect: Roancy Contreras

The best prospect the Yankees picked up this signing period is Dominican RHP Roancy Contreras. We heard a deal was likely weeks ago. Ben Badler reported the signing and I haven’t seen his bonus anywhere, but I think it’s safe to assume he received the $300,000 maximum. Baseball America ranked Contreras the third best pitcher and the 25th best prospect overall this signing period. He was the top Dominican pitcher available.

Contreras, 16, is listed at 6-foot-0 and 175 lbs., so he’s not the biggest guy at this point in time. Baseball America’s scouting report (subs. req’d) says he has an upper-80s/low-90s heater and an above-average bat-missing curveball. He’s even shown a changeup already, which is rare for a 16-year-old. Contreras is said to have a sound delivery and good athleticism. It seems like the Yankees found him early, locked him into an agreement, then his stock improved.

The Other Top Prospect: Saul Torres

The second best prospect the Yankee signed this month is 16-year-old Dominican C Saul Torres. He received a $300,000 bonus, reports Baseball America. Balder’s scouting report (subs. req’d) says Torres has promising power potential and “an above-average arm with the blocking and receiving skills to stick behind the plate.” The Yankees generally do very well scouting and developing catchers, so even though Torres was not one of the top 50 international prospects according to Baseball America, I’m guessing the kid has some skills. The team’s track record behind the plate speaks for itself.

Taken from the Red Sox: Eduardo Torrealba

As you may have heard, MLB hit the Red Sox hard after it was discovered they circumvented their bonus pool last year with some shady dealings. The short version: the BoSox were held to the same $300,000 bonus limit as the Yankees, so they’d sign two players for $300,000 each, but actually pay one $10,000 and the other $590,000 (I don’t know the exact amounts, but that’s the idea). The guy getting the small bonus probably wasn’t going to get signed otherwise, so he made some extra cash for playing along. That allowed the Red Sox to game the system and sign some top prospects.

MLB found out about this and punished the Red Sox. They are not allowed to sign any players during the 2016-17 signing period, and all the players who were part of their scam last season had their contracts voided and became free agents. One of those prospects, 17-year-old Venezuelan SS Eduardo Torrealba, later signed with the Yankees for $300,000, reports Jesse Sanchez. (Torrealba got to keep his Red Sox bonus money too. Good for him.)

Now Torrealba is not some kind of elite prospect or anything like that. In fact, he was hitting only .247/.318/.247 (71 wRC+) with four strikeouts and ten walks in 22 Dominican Summer League games when his contract was voided. Badler’s scouting report from last year says Torrealba is a “smart, instinctive player with feel for hitting from the right side of the plate and the ability to use the whole field.” Badler notes he may wind up at second base long-term.

Small or Unknown Bonuses

Here is basically everyone else. The guys the Yankees signed to relatively small or unreported bonuses. Good luck finding information on these guys. We usually have to wait until they break through as actual prospects and come to the U.S. before we learn anything about them.

Assuming Contreras received the maximum $300,000 bonus, the Yankees have $1.355M in pool space tied up in the players listed above. There’s seven bonuses unaccounted for though. Last year the Yankees signed 57 (!) players even with the bonus limit, so chances are they’ve signed a bunch of other players and will sign more before the 2016-17 signing period ends next June.

Sanchez: Astros sign Yulieski Gurriel to five-year, $47.5M deal

(El Nuevo Herald)
(El Nuevo Herald)

According to Jesse Sanchez, the Astros agreed to sign Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel to a five-year contract worth $47.5M yesterday. The deal is expected to become official later today. Houston’s infield is full, plus they have infielder and top prospect Alex Bregman knocking on the door, so this is a case of add talent and sort it all out later.

The Yankees were among the teams to bring Gurriel in for a private workout. International scouting director Donny Rowland is said to be a longtime fan of the former Cuban league star. It’s unclear if the Yankees were outbid or simply didn’t even make an offer. I have some thoughts on all of this.

1. He got less money than I thought. Five years and $9.5M a year strikes me as a pretty good deal for the Astros given other recent contracts for Cuban players. Rusney Castillo, Hector Olivera, and Yasmany Tomas all received $10M to $12M annually across six years. They all kinda stink though, plus Gurriel is a few years older, so I guess his contract is something of a market correction.

2. I get not going after a 32-year-old. Well, like I said, we don’t know what the Yankees offered, but I think you catch my drift here. Gurriel is not young. He’s 32 and he’s at the age where you’d expect his skills to decline anyway, so Gurriel is not someone you bring in if you’re rebuilding. He’s a win-now addition, and the Yankees are not a win-now team. Would he make them better in the short-term? Almost certainly yes. But the Yankees have focused on the short-term for too long. They have to take a step back and thing long-term now.

3. Where is the offense coming from the next few years? The Yankees are averaging only 4.20 runs per game this season, so they’re one of the lowest scoring offenses in the league. Next year they figure to lose Carlos Beltran (and Mark Teixeira) to free agency, and others like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Brian McCann will be a year older. Unless Greg Bird doesn’t miss a bit following shoulder surgery and youngsters like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez hit the ground running, the offense might be worse in 2017. Even the very best prospects can need an adjustment period, after all. Gurriel would have given the Yankees a much-needed bat going forward.

4. Don’t forget, Lourdes is the real prize. Yulieski and his brother Lourdes Jr. defected over the winter, and given his age (22) and skill set, Lourdes is the more promising player. He’s not Yoan Moncada, but his best years are ahead of him. With Yulieski you’re just hoping to get one or two peak years right away and a manageable decline. Lourdes is the better long-term buy. He’s not going to sign until his birthday in October — once he turns 23, he’ll no longer be subject to the international spending restrictions — and the Yankees should be all over him, though their recent track record with big name Cuban players suggests they’ll fall short.

Saturday Links: Midseason Prospect Lists, Miller, Gurriel

The Judge and the GM. (Presswire)
The Judge and the GM. (Presswire)

The Yankees and Indians continue their four-game series with the third game later this afternoon. Here are some links to help you pass the time until first pitch.

Four Yankees make BA’s midseason top 100

The Baseball America crew released their midseason top 100 prospects list yesterday. The entire piece is free. You don’t need a subscription to see the list or the write-ups. Red Sox 2B Yoan Moncada sits in the top spot (groan) and is followed by Cardinals RHP Alex Reyes and Phillies SS J.P. Crawford in the top three. The Yankees have four players on the list: SS Jorge Mateo (No. 19), C Gary Sanchez (No. 36), OF Aaron Judge (No. 42), and RHP James Kaprielian (No. 99).

Both Mateo and Judge have climbed the rankings since BA’s preseason top 100 — Mateo was No. 26 and Judge was No. 76 coming into the season — though at least part of that is due to the graduation of prospects ahead of them. Still nice to see such a big jump for Judge. Sanchez stayed in the same spot (No. 36) and Kaprielian makes the midseason top 100 after not making the preseason top 100. He did that despite his elbow injury. It should be noted 2016 draftees were not eligible for the midseason top 100. OF Blake Rutherford will definitely be in the top 100 mix next spring.

Two Yankees make BP’s midseason top 50

Baseball Prospectus released their midseason top 50 prospects list earlier this week as well, and again, it’s free. It’s not behind the paywall. That’s always cool. Crawford, Moncada, and Dodgers LHP Julio Urias sit in the top three spots in that order. Players selected in the 2016 draft are not eligible for this list either.

The Yankees landed only two players on BP’s midseason top 50: Judge (No. 25) and Mateo (No. 29). Judge dropped a few spots while Mateo climbed many spots from the preseason top 101. Judge was No. 18 before the season and Mateo was No. 65. Sanchez was No. 92 before the season, so the BP crew is lower on him than BA. Jumping from No. 92 before the season into the top 50 at midseason is tough to do.

Miller atop Cubs’ wish list

According to Jon Heyman, Andrew Miller is believed to be atop the Cubs’ wish list as they look for bullpen help. That’s no surprise. Miller is awesome and signed to a favorable contract, plus Theo Epstein had him with the Red Sox too, so I assume there’s still some affinity there. The Cubs also would like Dellin Betances but “wouldn’t even ask,” says Heyman. Why not ask? You’re not doing your job if you don’t ask.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

In a separate piece, Heyman says someone with the Yankees put the chances of a Miller trade at “less than one percent.” That could just be posturing though. Also, apparently the Nationals made an offer for Miller over the winter. That makes sense, though we didn’t hear about it in the offseason. The Dodgers and especially the Astros were the two clubs most connected to Miller over the winter. The Yankees wanted Lance McCullers Jr. from Houston, but no dice.

Gurriel done with private workouts

Free agent Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel finished his private workouts with teams this week, reports Jesse Sanchez. Gurriel did indeed work out with the Yankees at some point. I know this because he posted it on Instagram. (Journalism!) Sanchez says Gurriel worked out with the Astros, Dodgers, Giants, Mets, and Padres in addition to the Yankees. I’m surprised it wasn’t more teams.

With the workouts over, I assume Gurriel and his agents will shift into contract negotiation mode. I really have no idea what to expect. I could see him getting big money (five or six years at $12M+ annually) or just a moderate short-term deal (three years at $10M per year). His age (32) and the usual concerns associated with the transition to MLB complicate things even though Gurriel has mashed everywhere he’s played.

Red Sox get Ziegler

Late last night the Red Sox picked up reliever Brad Ziegler from the Diamondbacks for two low level prospects, both teams announced. This is good for the Yankees if you’re on #TeamSell. It’s simple supply and demand. The supply of available relievers has now shrunk by one while the demand, as far as the Yankees are concerned, is unchanged. They weren’t going to trade with Boston anyway. The Red Sox took an available late-inning reliever away from the Cubs, Nationals, Rangers, Dodgers, Giants, and whoever else. Now the Yankees just have to, you know, sell.