Archive for International Free Agents

The 2014-15 international signing period opens on July 2nd, so a little less than two months from now, and the Yankees are reportedly planning to blow their $2.2M spending pool right out of the water. The team is said to be willing to spend upwards of $15M on prospects, including another $15M in penalties. They would also be prohibited from signing a player for more than $300k in each of the next two signing periods.

Last week we heard the Yankees were heavily in on four 16-year-old position player prospects from the Dominican Republic, all of whom would command $2M bonuses or more. Today, Ben Badler reports the club is also targeting three other position player prospects likely to sign seven-figure deals of their own, likely in the $1M range. The scouting reports are subscriber-only, so I can only give away so much:

  • C Miguel Flames: “Scouts who liked Flames were impressed by his raw power, ability to work the count and put together consistent game at-bats.”
  • OF Jonathan Amundaray: “He projects as a right fielder with a good arm and a tick above-average speed … Amundaray has a quick bat and home run power.”
  • SS Diego Castillo: “One of the most instinctive baseball players on the market … a line-drive hitter with a clean, repeatable swing and feel for the barrel.”

All three players hail from Venezuela and sorry, I can’t find any video. I also have no idea how old they are, but 16 is a safe assumption. Flames was a third baseman for most of his life until recently moving behind the plate. Badler says the Yankees “are high on” Amundaray and are merely connected to the other two, for what it’s worth.

If the Yankees were to sign these three plus the four guys from last week, it will amount to $12M or so in bonuses based on Badler’s numbers. That would still leave $3M leftover, which is a ton. I have to think some of that would go towards pitching, though I’m not sure about the quality of this summer’s crop of arms. It’s safe bet the Yankees will grab at least a few pitchers though. Need to balance things out.

It has only been about five weeks, but so far this year the farm system has made a nice rebound from last season’s disaster. Adding three first round picks last year helped, as did Manny Banuelos‘ return from Tommy John surgery and the continued progress of guys like Peter O’Brien, Luis Severino, and Gary Sanchez. It sure sounds like an international draft is coming in the near future, so this might be the Yankees’ last chance to spend like crazy and add several impact youngsters to the system.

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Back in the fall, we first heard the Yankees are planning to blow past their international spending pool when this summer’s signing period opens on July 2nd. They’re said to be ready to spend upwards of $15M on bonuses despite being slotted for only $2.2M. They would pay another $15M or so in taxes and lose the right to sign a player for more than $300k in the next two signings periods.

Now, thanks to Ben Badler, we finally have some details on the specific players the Yankees are targeting. It’s a subscriber-only article, so I can’t give away too much, but here are the important details:

  • OF Juan De Leon: “premium bat speed from the right side of the plate … potential for plus power in the future” (video above)
  • SS Dermis Garcia: “some of the best raw power in the 2014 class” (video)
  • 3B Nelson Gomez: “has shown plus raw power … has an above-average arm and good hands” (video)
  • SS Christopher Torres: “switch-hitter who projects to stick at short” (no video)

All four players are 16 years old and from the Dominican Republic. Badler says they are all expected to command $2M or so bonuses, though Garcia could wind up with $3M. There are also some scouts who question whether Torres is really worth that much money. De Leon is said to be the team’s “top priority.”

Assuming the Yankees do sign those four players to roughly $9M in bonuses, they’d still have another $6M to spend before hitting that rumored $15M number. I would expect a chunk of that to go towards pitching. The Rays, Red Sox, and Brewers are planning similar spending sprees according to Badler, though not to the same extent as New York.

The Yankees have been very good at finding cheaper international prospects like RHP Luis Severino ($225k), SS Abi Avelino ($300k), and SS Thairo Estrada ($49k), so the $300k limit over the next two years won’t completely derail their international operation. Besides, there’s a decent chance MLB will implement an international draft soon. This might be the team’s last chance to spend like crazy.

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6:00pm: Baseball America (no subs. req’d) has the individual slot values for the draft and international pools. The international slots are for used in trades. The Yankees are slotted for $1,018,700 for that 55th overall pick. Their third rounder falls all the way to $585,100.

12:00pm: Via Jim Callis: Bonus pools for the draft and international free agency have increased 1.7% this year. The Yankees have been slotted $3,202,300 for the 2014 draft, the second smallest pool, ahead of only the Orioles. They have also been slotted $2,193,100 for international free agency, which is more middle of the pack (17th most).

The Yankees forfeited their top three draft picks — their first rounder and the compensation picks for Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano — to sign free agents last winter, so their first selection is in the second round, 55th overall. That may change slightly if Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales ever get around to signing. That $3.2M pool still gives them enough cash to sign a big money prospect or two, as long as they grab cheap college seniors in rounds five through ten to compensate. They’ve done that the last two years.

Based on what we heard over the winter, the international spending pool is meaningless this year. The Yankees are said to be planning a huge spending spree, upwards of $15M on prospects and then another $15M in penalties. They reportedly have some agreements already in place. If they do spend huge like that, they will not be allowed to sign anyone to a bonus larger than $300k the next two years. That might not matter with an international draft looking more and more likely. The international signing period opens July 2nd.

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According to multiple reports, the Cardinals have agreed to a four-year contract with Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz. The deal is reportedly worth a little less than $20M. The Yankees had interest in Diaz and even had him in camp for a private workout a few weeks ago, but they ultimately decided not to make a contract offer. Oh well.

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The Yankees relied on international free agents as the backbone of their farm system for years and years, but the new spending restrictions severely limit the team’s ability to build through Latin America. Two years ago they were capped at $2.9M — a touch less than they gave C Gary Sanchez alone back in 2009 — and last summer it was only $1.88M, the third smallest bonus pool in the game. Tough to stick to that number and add impact players.

According to Ben Badler (subs. req’d), the Yankees used that $1.88M pool to sign 45 (!) players last year. Well, kinda. All of that money and then some went to Dominican OF Leonardo Molina ($1.4M) and Dominican SS Yonauris Rodriguez ($570k). The Yankees exceeded their pool by roughly $93k on those two players alone, almost exactly a 5% overage. That results in a $70k tax, or 75% of the overage. Four other players signed for the $50k exemption (each team gets six) and the other 39 signed for no more than the $7,500 exemption (unlimited). Most of those guys are roster fillers and not serious prospects.

The 16-year-old Molina (no relation to the catching brothers) is now listed at 6-foot-2 and 180 lbs. and was one of the top available players on the international market. “Molina set himself apart with some of the best raw tools and athleticism in Latin America last year,” wrote Badler while noting Molina’s strong arm and defensive skills. “He has plus bat speed and a level stroke with good swing path, but he has an unorthodox load that causes his hands to get started a little early. Molina showed the ability to backspin a ball with gap power when he signed, but with added weight and strength since then, his power has already started to tick up significantly, taking balls over the center-field batter’s eye in batting practice.”

Rodriguez, 16, is considered a no doubt shortstop who has some work to be before becoming a real threat at the plate. “With a wiry 6-foot-1, 155-pound frame, Rodriguez projects to stay at the position with good hands and an above-average arm … (his) defense is ahead of his righthanded bat. He will hit some doubles but doesn’t have much power, so he’ll have to focus on line drives and getting on base,” wrote Badler. Here’s video. Both Rodriguez and Molina have a chance to make their pro debuts with one of the team’s two Rookie Gulf Coast League affiliates later this year.

In addition to their two big money signings, the Yankees also landed 19-year-old Dominican LHP Orby Taveras, who signed for one of the $50k exemptions. He already stands 6-foot-4 and 225 lbs. and “throws 88-91 mph, scrapes 92 and complements it with feel for a changeup that’s ahead of his three-quarters breaking ball,” according to Balder, who says Taveras also has a good plan on the mound despite his lack of experience. Dominican OF Frank Frias ($7,500) and Dominican RHP Jhon Morban ($3,000) both stood out for their performances in the Dominican Summer League after signing.

The Yankees are said to be planning a huge international spending spree this year, one that may reportedly cost upwards of $30M between signing bonuses and the taxes excised for exceeding their spending pool. That would help cover for the three top draft picks the team surrendered as free agent compensation this winter. The Yankees will face spending restrictions in future years if they go on such a spree, but the general belief is that an international draft is on the horizon. If so, this summer may be New York’s last chance to target and sign any available international player.

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Via El Heraldo (translated article): The Yankees have signed 17-year-old Colombian right-hander Juan Escorcia. He was one of 60 players they scouted at a recent workout. No word on the bonus but chances are it’s relatively small. The news would be everywhere if it was substantial.

“Escorcia is a right-hander who was highlighted in the evaluation process for the ease of his arm strength and pitching consistency,” said Luis Sierra Llamas, one of the team’s scouts in Colombia. Escorcia is said to stand 5-foot-11 with a fastball that sits around 90 mph, so yeah, he’s got quite a bit of development ahead of him before becoming a serious prospect.

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DePaula. (David Schofield/Lakewood Blue Claws)

DePaula. (David Schofield/Lakewood Blue Claws)

These last few years I’ve posted my annual Preseason Top 30 Prospects List the Friday before pitchers and catchers report, which would be this coming Friday. I’m going to be out of town these next few days though, so I’m going to push the Top 30 back to next Thursday, the day before pitchers and catchers are supposed to show up to Tampa. Here are some minor league notes to hold you over until then:

  • Marc Hulet at FanGraphs posted his list of the top ten Yankees prospects today. C Gary Sanchez sits in the top spot (duh) and then the usual suspects fill out the next nine slots. I really feel like you could put those nine guys in almost any order and it would be defensible. There isn’t much separation there.
  • Keith Law (Insider req’d) posted a list of ten players who just missed his top 100 list last week, and C J.R. Murphy is one of the ten. Law says he “looks like a solid-average everyday catcher, probably not more, but not a whole lot less. His game management skills are exceptional, from game-calling to reading hitters to understanding situations.”
  • MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, meanwhile, posted some players who missed their top 100 list this year but could make the jump in the future. RHP Rafael DePaula is one of those guys, and Mayo says he “has the chance to have three average or better pitches and could start moving fast.”
  • Baseball America’s Ben Balder reports that the Yankees spent $2.45M on international players during the 2013 calendar year, seventh lowest in baseball. That’s a function of the spending restrictions more than anything. Note that the $2.45M spans two signing periods (2012-13 and 2013-14), so it doesn’t tell us how close they are to their 2013-14 pool.
  • In another FanGraphs piece, David Laurila interviewed Murphy about his development as a catcher. “I was not very good when I was drafted. I’ve come a long way,” he said. Murphy also talked about learning to call a game and his approach as a hitter.
  • Danny Wild at MLB.com interviewed 3B Eric Jagielo, the first of the Yankees’ three first round picks in last summer’s draft. It’s a pretty generic Q&A, though Jagielo did talk about what he learned from a rehabbing Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in Tampa last year.
  • Here’s a fun Sporcle quiz: name every Yankees prospect to make Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list over the years. I got 72 of 93 and didn’t miss anyone obvious. Not sure I would have gotten the last 21 with unlimited time.
  • And lastly, Triple-A Scranton is holding a fun promotion this summer. Donnie Collins says August 8th will be “What If Night,” when they will play as the Trolley Frogs instead of the RailRiders. Trolley Frogs inexcusably lost a fan vote to Railriders when the team was renamed prior to last season.
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3:42pm: Now Nightengale says the Dodgers “won’t spend wildly” on Tanaka. So, yeah. Your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile, John Shea hears Tanaka prefers to play in New York, Los Angeles, or Boston.

3:00pm: Via Bob Nightengale: The Dodgers have let it be known they “plan to go all-out” to sign Masahiro Tanaka and claim they will not allow themselves to be out-bid. That could just be posturing or, given how Los Angeles has spent these last two years, completely sincere. The Yankees are interested in Tanaka but it is unclear exactly how far they’re willing to go to sign him. The signing deadline for Tanaka is two weeks from today.

Jan
09

The Latest on Masahiro Tanaka

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(Koji Watanabe/Getty)

(Koji Watanabe/Getty)

Today is the halfway point of Masahiro Tanaka‘s 30-day negotiating window. He has 15 days left to work out a contract before the 5pm ET deadline on January 24th, and the entire deal must be complete by that time. Tanaka needs to pass a physical and sign on the dotted line by then. There won’t be any of this “agree to a deal and three weeks later it’s official” nonsense. Only 15 days until he is on some team’s roster. Love the hard deadline.

Anyway, we know the Yankees have already contacted with Tanaka’s agent Casey Close, but there haven’t been any real updates since. That doesn’t mean talks have stalled or anything like that, just that no updates have leaked. The whole process has been very tight-lipped, it seems. I’m guessing that’s by design. Here are some Tanaka-related notes from around the league in what I suspect is the first of many update posts:

  • Tanaka flew to the Los Angeles yesterday to begin face-to-face meetings with teams. He is slated to meet with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, and Angels this week and he will also be seen by a doctor to get the physical process going. [David Waldstein, Bill Plunkett & Jon Heyman]
  • D’Backs GM Kevin Towers said Close “pretty much asked those clubs that are involved that just less is better and not to really say anything or divulge the process or what’s happening.” That explains the lack of updates. [Steve Gilbert]
  • Dodgers GM Ned Colletti confirmed he has touched base with Tanaka’s camp but the two sides are in the “feeling out” stage. Negotiations with various clubs are “still in a very preliminary phase” and things might not heat up until next week. [Dylan Hernandez & Andy Martino]
  • If you missed it earlier this week, here is our massive Scouting The Market post on Tanaka. Pretty much everything you need to know about the guy is in there.

Via Ken Rosenthal: The $20M release fee for Masahiro Tanaka will be paid out in two installments — $13M in 2014 and $7M in 2015. Under the old system, the posting fee had to be paid out in one lump sum as soon as the player signed. The installment plan was added to the new system as a way to give smaller market clubs a better chance of landing the player, which … whatever. MLB continues to bend over backwards for the small markets. This doesn’t really impact the Yankees.