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.

Trade & Free Agent Notes: Cubs, Beltran, Red Sox, Gurriel

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

It has been three days since Yankees president Randy Levine told reporters any talk about selling was “nonsense,” and boy, it would be much easier to make a snarky comment right now had the Yankees not come back to win that game last night. Still, their postseason odds are 9.0% per FanGraphs, and that’s not good. Regardless of what Levine says, the Yankees have to seriously consider shifting focus from this season to the future before the trade deadline. Here are some miscellaneous trade notes, with one free agent note thrown in for good measure.

Cubs continue to scout Yankees’ bullpen

The Cubs had multiple scouts at Yankee Stadium over the weekend to see the Yankees’ big three relievers, reports George King. Chicago had scouts on hand to see those guys earlier this month too. While I’m sure the Cubbies would love to get their hands on Dellin Betances, my guess is they’re focusing on Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman given their need for a late-inning southpaw.

For what it’s worth, Buster Olney (subs. req’d) hears the Yankees will tell the Cubs they have to part with Kyle Schwarber to get Miller. Chicago doesn’t want to do that, but they have plenty of other prospects and young big leaguers though, so when the time comes to field serious offers, Chicago can make a very competitive bid. Other contenders like the Nationals, Rangers, and Giants figure to be involved too, which is good news for the Yankees. Hooray bidding wars!

Beltran willing to waive no-trade clause

Carlos Beltran is one of the few big name Yankees without full no-trade protection — he can block deals to 14 teams — and he told Brendan Kuty that if the team comes to him to ask for approval for a trade, he’d be willing to okay the deal. “If they came to me about it, we would have a conversation,” he said. “When the team is looking to trade you, there’s no other decision to make other than go.”

The Yankees received a bit of a scare earlier this week when Beltran left a game with hamstring injury — that’s after receiving a scare when he needed his knee drained a few weeks ago — but thankfully he is only day-to-day. There don’t figure to be many impact bats available at the deadline, so even with Beltran’s defensive limitations, I imagine he’ll generate a ton of interest. The Indians and Royals are two obvious fits. The Giants and Nationals could have interest too. Hunter Pence is out long-term with a torn hamstring, so right field is open in San Francisco. Ben Revere hasn’t hit all year, so the Nats could put Beltran in right and slide Bryce Harper to center.

Dombrowski willing to trade with Yankees

Dombrowski. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)
Dombrowski. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)

I wouldn’t count on this actually happening, but Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told Brian MacPherson he is open to making a trade with the Yankees this summer. “I have made trades within our own division,” said the longtime exec, “… and the only time I’ve generally done that is when one club is in it and the other club is not. In that way, if they get the best return on their value, they don’t really care. If they’re in it and we’re in it, probably the odds are longer.”

I definitely understand why teams shy away from intradivision trades, but when you take the plunge and decide to sell, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t consider all offers. I mean, teams don’t make trades unless they believe they’re coming out ahead, so theoretically an intradivision trade would make your roster stronger and a rival’s weaker. A Yankees-Red Sox trade — a big trade, I mean, not something like Kelly Johnson for Stephen Drew — might get squashed at the ownership level. The prospect of losing a trade to your biggest rival is enough to make folks squeamish.

Yankees not believed to have much interest in Gurriel

Let’s end with a note about a free agent, not a trade. At some point soon the Yankees will hold a private workout for Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel at their Tampa complex, assuming it hasn’t happened already. Despite that, George King says the team’s interest level is “not believed to be high.” I would expect nothing less. Even if the Yankees have interest, they’re not going to say so publicly. There’s nothing to be gained by doing so.

Most see Gurriel as an impact middle of the order hitter, something the Yankees really lack. That said, he is already 32 years old, so he’s at the age where you’d expect his game to start to slip. You’re buying mostly decline years. Gurriel is a player you add if you’re a contender right now and are looking for someone to put you over the top. He doesn’t make sense for a rebuilding team that is years away from contention. The Yankees have the resources to avoid a long rebuild and the plan for the offense going forward can’t simply be “hope the prospects work out.” I get why teams would shy away from a 32-year-old with no MLB track record even if I don’t necessarily agree with it.

King: Yankees to hold private workout for Yulieski Gurriel in the coming days

(Donald Miralle/Getty)
(Donald Miralle/Getty)

According to George King, the Yankees will have Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel in Tampa for a private workout either this weekend or early next week. He also has private workouts scheduled with the Dodgers and Mets, among other teams. Gurriel will not hold an open showcase for scouts. He’s doing private workouts only.

The Yankees have brought pretty much every big name Cuban player to Tampa for private workouts in recent years, including Yoan Moncada and Aledmys Diaz. Obviously they didn’t sign any of those guys. Bringing Gurriel to Tampa does not necessarily mean the team has serious interest in signing him. They could just be doing their due diligence.

I wrote about Gurriel and the Yankees last week, so check that out. I’m not going to repeat it all here. He projects to be an impact bat and gosh, the Yankees sure could use one of those. There are three main questions here: one, where does he play? Two, how much will his age (32) work against him? And three, what’s is going to cost? Lots, probably.

Dave Cameron wrote a interesting post yesterday explaining why Gurriel may not command a huge contract like Rusney Castillo and Hector Olivera, who received six-year deals worth $11M+ annually. I’m not so sure. It only takes one team to love the talent and pay huge. We’ll find out soon enough. Gurriel could sign soon and make his MLB debut in second half.

Badler: Yankees favored to sign Dominican righty Roancy Contreras

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

Although the Yankees are still dealing with the penalties associated with their 2014-15 international spending spree, the team is still favored to land one of the top pitching prospects in Dominican Republic when the 2016-17 signing period opens on July 2nd. Ben Badler (subs. req’d) reports the Yankees “look like the favorites” to sign highly touted right-hander Roancy Contreras.

Contreras has “a fastball that has reached 92-93 mph, a sharp curveball with tight spin and a delivery that should allow him to be a starter,” writes Badler. He’s a little guy at 5-foot-10 and 180 lbs., so surely the Yankees are hoping Contreras grows a few inches at some point. Remember, we’re talking about a 16-year-old kid. Chances are an awkward growth spurt is coming at some point.

The Yankees can not hand out a bonus larger than $300,000 during the upcoming signing period, though apparently that won’t be a problem. I wonder if the Yankees were on to Contreras early — teams scout 14-year-olds in Latin America, if you can believe that — and locked him into a verbal agreement at some point, then bam, he showed up to the park one day with some extra velocity and improved his prospect stock. Something like that.

The 2016-17 signing period is the last signing period the Yankees will have to deal with the penalties from their 2014-15 spree. Chances are the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement will change the system — we might see an international draft going forward — so we’ll just have to see what happens in 2017-18, when the penalties are lifted. Either way, it sounds as though the Yankees are still going to be able to add a top pitching prospect in the upcoming signing period.