Archive for International Free Agents
As expected, the Yankees went on a huge international free agent spending spree when the signing period opened last Wednesday. By my unofficial count, the team signed 22 players for $14.51M worth of bonuses on the first day of the signing period alone, and those are just the players we know about. I’m certain there are other deals in place that have not yet been reported.
Now that the signing period has opened and most of the heavy lifting has been completed, let’s break down everything that happened on the international front. There’s a lot to digest here.
The Yankees were assigned a $2.2M signing pool for international players this summer, but they blew right through that. Based on what we know, they will have to pay approximately $12.31M in taxes for going over their pool, and the final number will be higher than that since it is inevitable several signings have yet to be reported. Between bonuses and penalties, the current total payout is $26.82M, or thereabouts.
In addition to the tax, the Yankees are now prohibited from signing a player to a bonus larger than $300k during both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, the last two covered by the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Here is the most important thing: their signing pool will not change in those years. Their pool will be whatever size it’s supposed to be based on their finish in the standings, but now they can not hand out any big bonuses. They aren’t actually losing any pool money these next two signings periods.
So … Good Idea or Bad Idea?
I’ve been going back and forth about whether going all in on one signing period is a good idea. At this point I think it is. Yes, they effectively removed themselves from the bidding for the top international prospects in the next two signings periods, but the Yankees usually do a very good job of finding cheap talent in Latin America. RHP Luis Severino ($225k), SS Abi Avelino ($300k), and SS Thairo Estrada ($45k) all signed for relative peanuts. Heck, go back a few years and both Robinson Cano ($150k) and Ivan Nova ($80k) came cheap. That $300k bonus cap the next two summers shouldn’t hinder them from finding quality prospects.
More than anything, I think it’s good the Yankees added all that talent right now. Remember, we’re talking about 16-year-old kids here. Even if things work out great, we’re still talking about four or five years in the minors before they make their MLB debut. It’ll take another few years after that for them to have a real impact. This is a long-term process and by signing all of these players now, the Yankees are starting that process. They added a ton of talent in one fell swoop. (Signing players is the easy part, developing them into MLB players is the real challenge.) I’ll take a bunch of top youngsters today over the prospect of signing top youngsters tomorrow.
What Kind Of Talent Are We Talking About Here?
As always, information about international prospects is hard to come by. It’s gotten about a million times better over the last few years, but there are still lots of conflicting reports. Here are where the team’s most notable signees were ranked by Baseball America and MLB.com, for comparison:
|SS Dermis Garcia||$3.2M||9th||1st|
|3B Nelson Gomez||$2.25M||6th||2nd|
|OF Juan De Leon||$2M||2nd||5th|
|OF Jonathan Amundaray||$1.5M||22nd||7th|
|SS Wilkerman Garcia||$1.35M||7th||14th|
|SS Hyo-Jun Park||$1.16M||18th||13th|
|C Miguel Flames||$1M||16th||25th|
|OF Antonio Arias||$800k||28th||9th|
|SS Diego Castillo||$750k||24th||16th|
According to MLB.com, the Yankees signed the top two, three of the top five, four of the top seven, five of the top nine, and eight of the top 20 available prospects. According to Baseball America, they signed one of the top five, three of the top eight, four of the top nine, and six of the top 20 prospects. Bit of a difference there, and you know what? That’s perfectly fine. Consensus rankings are boring. The most important thing is that both publications agree the Yankees landed some of the very best international prospects last week. They brought in the elite.
Bats, Not Arms
As you may have noticed in the table, all of the team’s notable signings are position players, particularly up the middle players (De Leon and Amundaray are center fielders). This year’s crop of international free agents was light on pitchers to start with — according to Baseball America, only two of the top ten and five of the top 30 prospects were pitchers — but hoarding position players prospects is not a bad idea in and of itself.
Offense is getting harder and harder to find these days. Run-scoring around the league is down to its lowest point in years — MLB teams have a combined .316 OBP in 2014, which would be the lowest since 1972, the year before the DH was adopted — and that makes quality bats even more of a top commodity. Pitching is important, it absolutely is, but right now impact bats are something of a market inefficiency. Everyone wants one but few are actually available. Look at the Cubs and their prospects. Remember, not all of these guys will be future Yankees. Some will be used as trade bait and young, high-end bats are valuable. Stockpiling position player prospects makes a ton of sense.
Exposing A Broken System
This last week has exposed just how broken MLB’s spending restriction system is. The system was intended to level the playing field and give every club a shot at acquiring the best talent, but instead the Yankees (and Red Sox, as well) blew through their spending limit and signed the top available talents. Meanwhile, both the Brewers and Rays had to swing trades for pool money to sign just one top prospect because they can’t afford to pay the penalties.
Rather than create a fairer market, the new system has given large market clubs even more of an advantage. It’s not about a willingness to go over the pool to sign players, every team would do it if possible, but some simply can not do it financially. The Yankees didn’t break the rules at all, they will pay the tax and deal with the bonus limitations the next two years, but to them that is simply the cost of doing business. Smaller market teams can’t dream of doing that. Expect the system to change somehow during the next round of Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.
Only six questions this week, but some of the answers are kinda long. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything through the week.
Several people asked: What happens with Brian Cashman when his contract expires after the season?
A bunch of people sent in some variation of this question. Some nice (is it time for a change?), some not so nice (fire that idiot!). Needless to say, when you commit over $500M to free agents in an offseason only to get worse and potentially to miss the postseason for the second straight year, it’s only natural to wonder if a change in leadership is needed.
I’ve been a Cashman supporter over the years but I do think it’s time for the Yankees to make a change. He’s been the GM for 16 years now. That’s an eternity in GM years. The Yankees are still trying to win by almost exclusively signing free agents and that’s not just going to work in the game these days. The best players are not hitting the open market until their post-prime years. Baseball has changed but the Yankees have not. They’re still trying to build a team the same way they did 10-15 years ago and it’s not working.
I feel the Yankees have reached the point where bringing in a new GM with a different voice would really benefit the club. I think the same applies to managers and coaches too — eventually they get stale and it’s time for a new voice to shake things up. That’s human nature. It happens. The club’s way of doing business needs an overhaul, not one or two minor tweaks. I mean, given their payroll, other teams rely on the Yankees to make mistakes to contend, and there have been a lot of mistakes in recent years.
Who should replace Cashman? That’s a hard part. Assistant GM Billy Eppler is the obvious in-house candidate but he is being given serious consideration for the Padres GM job (he interviewed for the position yesterday, the team announced). He might not be a long-term option. Hiring someone from outside the organization is tricky because the New York market is so unique. Money doesn’t guarantee success and the expectations are through the roof. Experience in this kind of market is not required but it would preferred.
If Eppler gets the Padres job, I have no idea who the Yankees could replace Cashman with. Ex-Cubs GM Jim Hendry is in the front office as an advisor but no thanks. Advisor and ex-GM Gene Michael has made it pretty clear he’s out of the GM game at age 76. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer? Eh, maybe. Hiring Billy Beane or Andrew Friedman away from their teams is totally unrealistic. There figures to be a few GM openings this winter (Phillies? Diamondbacks?), so the Yankees would have competition for the top candidates.
I do think it’s time for the Yankees to bring in a new GM — I’ve been saying they could move Cashman to a high-level advisor role when the time comes for years now, similar to Kenny Williams and Mark Shapiro, and I still think that. He’s worth keeping around, especially if they bring in a GM from outside the organization — because there needs to be some change. The team-building strategies are too outdated to continue. Going from Point A (Cashman) to Point B (new GM) will be very difficult and my biggest fear is Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine hiring some figurehead GM they can walk all over.
Joe asks: Why don’t the Yankees switch Gardner and Ellsbury in the lineup? Why bat Ellsbury third when Gardner has shown more power this year?
I agree completely. (I said this earlier this week.) Jacoby Ellsbury‘s batting third because he’s the big name and he’s the guy with the huge contract, but he is totally miscast in that lineup spot in my opinion. Brett Gardner would be as well, don’t get me wrong, but when you look at their skills, I think Ellsbury makes more sense in the leadoff spot and Gardner third. To wit:
- Their batting averages (.288 vs. .284) and on-base percentages (.358 vs. .352) are essentially identical. It’s not like one guy has a big 25 or 40-point advantage or something.
- Ellsbury is quicker to steal than Gardner. I don’t have any stats to back that up (I don’t even know if that stuff is available) but I think we can all agree that’s the case.
- Gardner has shown more usable power this year (.144 ISO vs .106 ISO, 8 HR vs. 4 HR) and does a better job of taking advantage of the short porch. Every Ellsbury hit looks exactly the same — line drive to center or left-center. Hard to hit for power and clear the bases like that.
Since they get on base at almost the exact same rate, the Yankees would be better off using Gardner’s slight edge in power — remember, he has more power than Ellsbury but is still no better than an average power hitter overall — a little lower in the lineup, with potentially more men on base. It wouldn’t make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re struggling to score runs like the Yankees have been, I see very little downside to making the swap.
Daniel asks: Why is it that when you’re showing the rankings of different international prospects and you give MLB.com and BA’s, the rankings are so vastly different? It doesn’t seem like it’s quite as stark a difference with US prospects. Why the big gaps, and who do you trust more anyway?
I listed each player’s ranking in our massive International Free Agency Open Thread the other day — the unofficial final tally was 22 players and $26.8M in bonuses plus penalties, by the way, and there are still some more signings to come — and in some cases the rankings are very different. Venezuelan OF Jonathan Amundaray was ranked seventh by MLB.com and 22nd by Baseball America, for example. Dominican OF Antonio Arias was ninth by MLB.com and 28th by Baseball America. A two or three spot difference is nothing, but 15-20?
I think this stems from the general lack of reliable information about international prospects. MLB.com and Baseball America do a really awesome job of digging up info on these kids, but it’s still tough to find a consensus. Remember, these are 16-year-old kids who have a lot of development left. They are even more unpredictable than high schoolers, so the opinions very wildly. It comes down to the difference in sources, I guess. I trust Baseball America (Ben Balder) the most because he’s been on the international free agent beat for a while now and always seems to have the most information and the best projections (about who is signing where, etc.). I think it’s important to consider all possible sources through. The more info, the better.
Joe asks: Hiroki Kuroda gets terrible run support, it seems. What Yankees starter has gotten the worst?
Kuroda has never gotten run support in the big leagues. The Dodgers never scored for him back in the day and even in 2012, when the Yankees had a good offense, they still never scored for him. Here is the where the team’s starters rank among the 157 starting pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings this season (only Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka have qualified for the batting title):
- CC Sabathia: 5.25 (14th)
- Vidal Nuno: 4.29 (69th)
- Chase Whitley: 4.22 (73rd)
- Tanaka: 4.06 (84th)
- David Phelps: 3.91 (95th)
- Kuroda: 3.65 (114th)
Juan Nicasio of the Rockies has received the most run support this year (6.79 runs per game) by almost a full run (Jesse Chavez and Matt Shoemaker are tied for second at 5.88). Andrew Cashner has received the least run support at 2.17 runs per game. Yikes. How in the world can someone pitch like that, knowing that if they give up two runs, they’ll probably lose? The Padres, man.
Dustin asks: Chris Capuano is now a free agent. Should the Yanks give him a minor league deal? Same for Jerome Williams and Justin Maxwell if they clear waivers. And would Nolan Reimold even be worth claiming on waivers and giving up something of minor value?
I’d take all four of those guys a minor league contract at this point, especially Maxwell, who might be a better option for the right-handed half of the right field platoon than Alfonso Soriano. He stunk this year (11 wRC+ in limited time), but Maxwell has hit .230/.344/.407 (105 wRC+) against lefties in his career. It’s not like the Triple-A Scranton outfield is full either. Reimold is hurt all the time (56 games from 2012-14) but has kinda shown he can hit southpaws (career 98 wRC+). Capuano has a knack for underperforming his peripherals and I consider both him and Williams as replacement level arms at this point of their careers. The Red Sox were nice enough to audition Capuano in the AL East for the Yankees. Of these four guys, Maxwell seems most likely to be useful.
TomH asks: RAB and others have recently noted a kind of creeping mediocrity among MLB teams, probably resulting from the Bud Selig era leveling moves. How do you think this pretty obvious general mediocrity will affect baseball’s popularity?
It’s probably a net win for the game. More teams are in the race and that means more fans are excited and paying attention (and going to games and buying merchandise). I joke all the time that the Yankees are unwatchable these days, but I watch a ton of non-Yankees baseball too, and I think the level of play around the league is very low right now. Most of MLB is Yankees-esque unwatchable. Is that because of Selig’s competitive balance? I’m sure that’s part of it. I think it’s good for the game overall to have more teams in the race and more fans interested, but I do think baseball is at its absolute best when there are two or three superpowers fans can hate. Maybe I’m just biased as a Yankees fan.
The 2014 international signing period opened at 9am ET today, and, by all accounts, the Yankees are planning a massive spending spree. They have been assigned a $2.2M signing pool but are reportedly willing to spend upwards of $30M between bonuses and penalties. They’re said to have several verbal agreements already in place, many of which are individually worth more than the team’s signing pool.
The penalties for the spending spree will be pretty harsh. Not only will the Yankees have to pay a 100% tax on just about every dollar they spend, they will also not be allowed to sign any player to a bonus worth more than $300k during the next two international signing periods (2015-16 and 16-17). With rumors of an international draft continuing to circulate, this may be New York’s last chance to spend freely on amateurs.
As a reminder, these players are signing contracts for 2015. They won’t sign and report right to one of the minor league affiliates in the coming days. It’s also worth pointing out these kids are just that: kids. The majority are 16-17 years old, meaning they are a half-decade away from making their MLB debuts. If they’re like most other players, it’ll take another few years after that for them to have a real impact. These players are a long way away from helping the Yankees as anything other than a trade chip.
Our international free agency archive is right here. Both Baseball America and MLB.com recently released their lists of the top 30 available prospects, though Baseball America’s scouting reports are subscriber-only. MLB.com’s stuff — video, scouting reports, etc. — is all free. It’s pretty awesome. We’ll keep track of the team’s international signings right here throughout the day, so make sure you check back often for updates (all timestamps are ET).
- 8:01pm: McDaniel has a bunch of low-profile, small bonus signings: Venezuelan OF Leobaldo Cabrera, Venezuelan C Jason Lopez, Dominican OF Lisandro Blanco, Dominican IF Wander Hernandez, Venezuelan OF Raymundo Moreno, Dominican OF Adolfo Morillo, Venezuelan OF Pablo Olivares, Dominican C Bismar Nunez, Dominican LHP Luis Pache, Venezuelan SS Danienger Perez, and Venezuelan RHP Gilmael Troya. No word on any bonuses, but again, they’re small.
- 7:46pm: McDaniel reports the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Venezuelan OF Jonathan Amundaray for approximately $1.5M. MLB.com ranked him seventh and Baseball America ranked him 22nd. “Amundaray has good bat speed with a slight uppercut and average raw power that has a chance to be plus in the future … He has a decent stroke, but he doesn’t have an innate feel for hitting, with some length to his swing and inconsistent bat-to-ball skills,” wrote Badler.
- 7:42pm: The Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican OF Antonio Arias, according to Kiley McDaniel. Sanchez says the bonus is $800k. MLB.com ranked Arias as the ninth best prospect when Baseball America had him 28th. “He’s one of the better athletes in Latin America, with plus speed that he should be able to maintain as he adds weight to stay in center field … He flashes solid bat speed and power potential, but everything about Arias is physical projection,” says Badler.
- 7:03pm: The Yankees have signed 16-year-old Venezuelan RHP Servando Hernandez for $200k, reports Badler. He is not among MLB.com’s nor Baseball America’s top 30 international prospects. Hernandez “has a big, strong frame at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and touches 90-91 mph. He shows feel for his changeup and is mostly a fastball/changeup pitcher with the curveball his No. 3 pitch,” says Badler.
- 6:47pm: According to Badler, the Yankees have signed 18-year-old Korean SS Hyo-Jun Park. He got a $1.16M bonus according to Naver (translated article). Park was ranked as the 13th and 18th best prospect available by MLB.com and Baseball America, respectively. Everything you need to know about him is in this guest post from Sung-Ming Kim. Because he is 18, he can begin playing as soon as the contract is official.
- 6:36pm: The Yankees have also signed 16-year-old Venezuelan C Miguel Flames, according to Badler. Sanchez says he received a $1M bonus. Flames was considered the 16th best prospect by Baseball America and 25th best by MLB.com. “Scouts who like Flames say he hits in games and takes quality at-bats thanks to his pitch recognition and ability to stay within the strike zone,” wrote Badler, who notes Flames is a recently converted third baseman.
- 6:33pm: As expected, the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican OF Juan De Leon, reports Badler. Sanchez says he received $2M. Baseball America and MLB.com rank De Leon has the second and fifth best prospect available, respectively. Badler says “De Leon has a short, efficient swing and strong wrists that help him generate the best bat speed in the class, which is why several scouts consider De Leon one of the top hitters available.”
- 3:21pm: Sanchez reports the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Venezuelan SS Wilkerman Garcia for $1.35M. Baseball America and MLB.com ranked him as the seventh and 14th best prospect on the market, respectively. “Garcia draws widespread praise for his hitting with good bat-to-ball skills and a sound swing from both sides of the plate,” wrote Badler.
- 1:40pm: The Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican 3B Nelson Gomez for $2.25M, reports Sanchez. He was ranked the second and sixth best prospect available by MLB.com and Baseball America, respectively. “Gomez, who trains with Victor Baez, has at least plus raw power … He has good bat speed and packs plenty of strength into a heavy, big-boned frame, putting on an impressive display in batting practice with power to all fields,” says Badler.
- 12:50pm: As expected, the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican SS Dermis Garcia, according to Dionisio Soldevila. He received a $3.2M bonus after being connected to the team for weeks now. MLB.com and Baseball America ranked Garcia as the best and ninth best prospect available, respectively, with Badler saying he is “strong, generates huge loft and puts on a fireworks display in batting practice, with 70 raw power that rates as the best in the class”
- 11:25am: Jesse Sanchez reports the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Venezuelan SS Diego Castillo for $750k. He ranked 16th and 24th on MLB.com’s and Baseball America’s top 30 lists, respectively. “Castillo is one of the most intelligent players in Latin America. He slows the game down, playing calmly and under control in all phases of the game,” wrote Badler.
- 10:23am: The Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican OF Frederick Cuevas for $300k, reports Ben Badler. He does not rank among Baseball America’s or MLB.com’s top 30 prospects. “Cuevas is a lefty who has performed well at the plate in games with gap power. He doesn’t have a tool that jumps out and he fits best in left field,” wrote Badler.
Total Known Bonuses: $14.51M. Total Penalties: ~$12.31M. Total spent: ~$26.82M.
According to multiple reports, the Reds have signed Cuban right-hander Rasiel Iglesias to a seven-year contract worth a guaranteed $27M. The team also confirmed his name is spelled Rasiel, not Raciel. There was some confusion about that. The deal will not become official until he secures a work visa, which doesn’t figure to be a problem.
Iglesias, 24, is a skinny little guy (5-foot-11 and 165 lbs.) who has been a reliever his entire career, though apparently the Reds are going to give the opportunity to start. Reports indicated that teams felt he could step right in to help a big league bullpen in the second half. Iglesias had been working out and holding showcases in Haiti, though there were no reports the Yankees (or any other team, for that matter) had interest in signing him. The deal with Cincinnati came out of nowhere.
With Iglesias off the board, the best available Cuban free agent is power-hitting outfielder Yasmani Tomas, who defected earlier this month. Here’s more on him from Ben Badler. Tomas will not be eligible to sign for another few months — he has to establish residency and be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control before being declared a free agent by MLB — and from what I understand, he will be the last potential impact bat to come out of Cuba for a while.
As you know, the Yankees are planning a massive spending spree on international free agents when the signing period opens one week from tomorrow. They’ve been connected to almost every notable prospect in recent weeks and are said to be willing to spend upwards of $30M between bonuses and penalties. They want to add some young impact talent to the organization and will do it via the international market this summer, when they can sign any player they choose and aren’t limited by draft position.
The Yankees were assigned a $2.2M bonus pool for international players this summer, which is nothing. It’s less than what they gave Gary Sanchez ($3M) a few years ago. Heck, the Yankees reportedly have verbal agreements in place with three players — Dominican SS Dermis Garcia ($3.6M), Dominican 3B Nelson Gomez ($2.8M), and Dominican SS Christopher Torres ($2.6M) — that are worth more than their spending pool. That $2.2M is relatively meaningless.
Because the pool value means so little in the grand scheme of the spending spree, the Yankees are in position to use it in another way: as a trade chip. The Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to trade their international pool money and it’s happened a few times these last two years. The Cardinals traded Mitchell Boggs to the Rockies for a little more than $200k in international cash last July, for example. The only purpose that $2.2M serves is to slightly reduce the penalties, so why not use it as a trade chip instead?
Now, trading international money is a little weird in that you can’t simply offer a team some arbitrary sum of money. The international bonus pools are broken up into four slots — like four rounds in a draft, this was put into place as a precursor to an international draft — and those individual slots are traded. You can’t trade a portion of a slot, the entire thing has to be moved. Here are the Yankees’ four international slot values, courtesy of Ben Badler:
- Slot #17: $677,400
- Slot #47: $386,300
- Slot #77: $260,800
- Slot #107: $168,600
In addition to the four slots, each team gets a $700k base that can not be traded, as far as I know. Add those four slots with the $700k base and you get the team’s ~$2.2M total pool. The Yankees can’t just trade a lump of, say, $500k in international money, they have to trade Slot #17 or Slot #47. If the $700k base is untradeable, New York has approximately $1.5M in bonus money to peddle. Got it? Good.
There are two other restrictions to trading international pool space. One, a team can only acquire an additional 50% of its pool, so the Yankees can’t send all of that ~$1.5M to one team in most cases. Two, the pool money can only be traded during the signing period, so between next Wednesday and July 1st of next year. That last part doesn’t figure to be a problem, but it does mean the Yankees can’t use their pool money as a chip for another week.
The Yankees will have to work through some obstacles to use their international spending money as a trade chip, but the idea is sound. They’re already going to spend a boatload of cash on players, so rather than have that pool money serve no other purpose than to save a little on the penalty bill — whatever they trade away is how much extra they’ll have to pay in penalties — they can use it almost as another “prospect” in a trade. It’s another asset that can be moved.
The real question is how do teams value international money? Like I said, Boggs was traded for roughly $200k last summer. He was a middle reliever whose control had deteriorated (26 walks and 25 strikeouts at the time of the trade) and been demoted to Triple-A. At least in that one instance, the $200k in international money had small trade value. The Yankees can use their pool money as a trade chip but it isn’t landing them any impact players by itself. Remember, that money will be used to sign 16-year-old kids who are a half-decade away from MLB.
Brian Cashman has already said he expects to make moves before the trade deadline, but making a deal felt inevitable even before he said that. The Yankees are only 2.5 games out of first place and one game back of a wildcard spot. They’re in contention but need help at several positions. Their international spending pool will be made irrelevant by their spending spree, so they can use that money to land help for the big league team at the trade deadline. It’s not much, but it something they should be very willing to offer.
The following is a guest post from long-time reader Sung-Min Kim, who you can follow on Twitter at @SungMinKim116.
As many of us know, the Yankees are set to pour a lot of money into international signings come July 2nd. The reports say they already have come to an agreement with three big-name prospects in Latin America and there is possibly one more coming from Korea. On Tuesday, it was reported that 18-year old SS prospect Hyo-Jun Park will sign with the Yankees and it sounds official — his parents have quipped on it as well. What does this signing mean and what kind of talent is he?
In terms of the Asian market, the Yankees have a richer history with signing Japanese and Taiwanese players, but not much with Koreans. In the 2004-05 offseason, the team was actually strongly linked to LHP Dae-Sung Koo (who, by the way, was a beast in KBO in the 90’s and did a decent job in Japan as well. At the age of 44, he was the saves leader in the Australian league in 2013-14) and reportedly came to an agreement, but the lefty ended up signing with the Mets and this ended up happening. Before the 2010 season, the team signed veteran RHP Chan-Ho Park, who had rejuvenated his career as a reliever, but he proved to be ineffective (5.12 FIP in 35.1 IP) for the Bombers and was DFA’d within few months.
Well, the reports strongly indicate that the Yanks are an official announcement away from sealing Park as their farm commodity. The bonus amount is reported to be around $1 to $1.2 million and the team is ready to supply Park a good amount of accommodation for his adjustment to the new culture, including a full-time translator, a “hotel-quality dormitory,” etc. He would be the first Korean IFA ever to sign with the Yankees.
As a junior of the Yatap High School of Kyung-gi province, the shortstop is tearing the cover off the ball in the Gogyo Yagu Jumal League (high school weekend league), hitting for a .467/.614/.967 slash line in 44 plate appearances in 10 games. Out of his 14 hits, 7 of them are extra-base hits with three homers. Considering that Park’s been considered a cream of the crop tier prospect since his sophomore year, when he hit .371/.475/.557 with 1 HR, his offensive performance so far this year has put him into a formidable prospect status. Another note about his power performance is that he’s done it all with a wood bat in a league that banned the use of aluminum bats back in 2004. Also, he has shown a good eye throughout his high school career. For example, during his freshman year, even when he hit for only .256 avg., he managed a .468 OBP. So far in 2014, he has a 13-to-4 BB-to-K ratio in 10 games.
Garnering attention since his sophomore year, a lot of Korean scouts have pegged Park as the possible No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 KBO Draft. At this point, it’s unlikely any KBO team will choose Park. Back in 2006, the Kia Tigers selected RHP Young-Il Jung, who had already generated strong ML interest, and the righty ended up signing with the LA Angels and the Tigers ended up wasting their 1st-round pick. The team with the first pick on the upcoming KBO Draft, the KT Wiz (an expansion team that will make its debut in KBO next season), has already announced their first two picks they received as an expansion team (RHP Sung-Moo Hong and RHP Kwon Joo). Many speculate that had Park not maintained a strong connection with the Yankees, the shortstop would have been the Wiz’s pick.
According to this article, before this winter Park looked forward to being selected in the KBO draft. “I was approached by the Yankees during the sophomore year of high school,” Park said, “my parents liked the idea of going to ML but I wasn’t sure what to expect so I declined their offer at the time.” Park’s decision changed when he trained in Los Angeles over this past winter. “I played with American players few times then and I felt they had better power and basics,” said Park, “despite all that, I felt that I played very well against them, so I started to feel confident about (playing in America in the future).”
The Yankees were not the only team that showed an interest in Park. The San Diego Padres reportedly made a $1 million offer and their scout said that “(in his sophomore year) Park was a $500K-worthy player and after I saw him in Los Angeles, he was more of a $1 million-worthy talent.” The Padres are not alone. According to Chi-Hoon Lee, Park’s agent, seven ML teams, including the Yankees, have shown interest in the shortstop, but the link also states the Yankees are Park’s sole priority.
The $1.2 million bonus is not as high as what the Yanks are giving to few other IFA signees but it’s still a lot of money. In fact, it rivals the top-tier annual salary of KBO. The highest-paid player of the league, 1B Tae-Kyun Kim, is set to receive $1.403 million for 2014. For another point of reference, OF Hyung-Woo Choi, a 30-year old proven offensive commodity, gets paid only $421K for 2014 season. A 18-year old prospect Park has a chance to receive 3x the money that an offensive star Choi is – who is hitting for a 1.074 OPS so far this season. It is suffice to say that the amount is too good to easily pass up on.
The biggest Korean IF prospect to have signed with an ML team prior to Park is SS Hak-Ju Lee for the Rays farm system. Park has gotten comparisons to Lee for both his offensive and defensive game. This would have been a more thrilling thought last year, before Lee tore his ACL while hitting for 225 wRC+ for the Durham Bulls in AAA level. He has yet to find his offensive groove so far this season (73 wRC+) but he is still only a 23-year-old in AAA and have some time to work himself into position to be a future SS for the Rays. Lee was signed by the Cubs as a 17-year-old back in 2008 with a $1.15 million bonus. Park may get around that figure (or a little more). In six minor league seasons, Lee has hit for a .285/.360/.380 line overall.
Here’s MLB.com’s scouting report on Park – he ranks #12 in the overall list (also the site misspelled his name as “Hyu-Jun Park”).
Scouting Grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 45 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 60
Park and his teammates from Yatap High School in South Korea spent more than a month in the United States playing against top high school teams from California earlier this year. There’s a real possibility the young infielder will get a chance to see a lot more of the country in the near future.
A legitimate shortstop prospect, Park has the tools to stay at the position as he develops. What’s more, some scouts think he has the potential to be above average in every facet of the game, except for power. That said, there’s the belief that he could still hit at least 10 home runs when he gains strength. He can also spray the ball to all fields.
Scouts view him as a good defender with solid fundamentals and compare him to Tampa Bay infield prospect Hak-Ju Lee. Park has been scouted heavily by the Yankees.
Based on what I hear about Park, the scouting grades and report sound about right. Personally, I’d like to see Park fill out his frame and have a better power display than projected (because power is sexy), but he’s still projected to show plus hit, run and field tools. If his high school slash lines are any indication, he also has some plate discipline.
Of course, the tools translating in pro ball are all big ifs. He could develop as well as Lee or he could be a costly flop like Kelvin De Leon. The odds for the latter is much bigger than the former — especially considering the cultural adjustment and language issues — it won’t be an entirely smooth ride for Park. Rangers OF Shin-Soo Choo is the main example of a Korean position player who enjoyed success after years of toiling in the minors and going through cultural and language adjustment as a teenager. However, for every Shin-Soo Choo, there are a bunch of failed prospects who never adjusted to the American lifestyle and English language and returned to their home country.
Lee started out at a low-A level instead of any short-season leagues and, according to reports, Park may start at the same level as well. The shortstop himself said he wants to be a ML regular in “three years” but I think it will take longer. The tools and the hype are there. Will he be the next Shin-Soo Choo or the next Carmen Angelini? Too early to speculate what will he be like in 3-4 years, but as a Korean and a Yankees watcher (who wanted to see Choo sign with the Yankees over the offseason), I’m looking forward to seeing his development in the system.
The international free agent signing period opens in less than two weeks, and the Yankees have been connected to almost every meaningful prospect. They reportedly have several deals already in place and are expected to spend upwards of $30M between bonuses and penalties. Here are some stray notes on international prospects:
- Cuban OF Yasmani Tomas has defected, reports Ben Badler. He still needs to go through several steps (establish residency, be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, etc.) before being declared a free agent, so it might not be until next year that he can actual sign. Badler says the 23-year-old Tomas “can hit towering home runs (and) has 70 raw power on the 20-80 scale,” though there are holes in his swing and he struggles against breaking balls. This won’t be the last time you hear about him.
- The Yankees are likely to sign Venezuelan SS Wilkerman Garcia to a seven-figure bonus, according to Badler (subs. req’d). Garcia, 16, is considered one of the best hitters available this summer, and Badler says (subs. req’d) he is “a switch-hitter who’s better from the left side, where he can square up good velocity with a mature approach at the plate … Garcia’s offensive game is more about hitting than power, but there’s strength projection in his body.”
- MLB.com posted their list of the top 30 international free agents, and, like their draft coverage, it includes scouting reports, 20-80 scouting scale grades, and video. All for free. It’s awesome. The Yankees are connected to prospects No. 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 13, 14, 16, 18, 25, and 29. If they were serious about building up the farm system, they’d sign the other 19 prospects too. (Do I need to say that’s sarcasm? Because it was sarcasm.)
According to Ben Badler (subs. req’d), the Yankees are projected to sign three of the top five and four of the top ten international prospects once the signing period opens on July 2nd. Those prospects are Dominican SS Dermis Garcia (ranked 2nd), Dominican 3B Nelson Gomez (3rd), Dominican OF Juan De Leon (5th), and Venezuelan OF Jonathan Amundaray (10th).
We first heard the Yankees connected to those players (as well as several others) a few weeks ago. The team reportedly has agreements already in place with Garcia ($3.6M) and Gomez ($2.8M). In another piece (subs. req’d), Balder quotes several scouts who believe De Leon can become a true impact player down the line. “When it’s all said and done, he might be the best of all these guys,” said one scout. “He’s got five-tool potential with three of those tools (power, speed, defense) potentially plus.”
The Yankees were allotted only $2.2M for international free agency this summer, but they are going to blow right past that with their reported agreements. Reports of a international spending spree worth upwards of $30M (bonuses plus penalties) have been going around since the winter. The Yankees took higher probability pitchers in the draft two weeks ago, and it appears they’re going to balance things out with several high-upside international position players next month.
Got some updates on a pair of Cuban free agents. First, Jesse Sanchez reports the Giants have agreed to sign OF Daniel Carbonell. The Yankees were said to have some interest in him, but not enough to make an offer. Sanchez says Carbonell received a three-year contract worth $3.5M, which tells you teams valued him as an extra player. If there’s one thing the Yankees don’t need, it’s more fourth outfielder types.
In other news, Ben Badler reports RHP Raciel Iglesias has been granted an extension to sign by MLB. Because of the league’s silly rules, he would have had to sign by yesterday to avoid being subject to the international spending restrictions. He can now sign for any amount before July 2nd. As I wrote in this mailbag a few weeks ago, Iglesias is a pure reliever who some teams believe can help as soon as the second half. There have not yet been any reports linking him to the Yankees or any other team.
Via Andy Martino: The Yankees have verbal agreements in place with SS Dermis Garcia ($3.6M), 3B Nelson Gomez ($2.8M), and SS Christopher Torres ($2.6M) prior to the start of the July 2nd international signing period. All three players are 16 years old and from the Dominican Republic. Read more about them right here. Martino says the Yankees are believed to have agreements with two others in place as well.
Earlier this week Ben Badler (subs. req’d) said Torres was not expected to get anything close to his $2M+ asking price, so there’s some conflicting information out there. That’s nothing new for the international market. The Yankees are said to be planning a massive international spending spree this summer, upwards of $30M between bonuses and penalties, and they’ve already been linked to seven players seeking seven-figure bonuses. These verbal agreements in advance of the signing period happen all the time even though they are against the rules.