Archive for International Free Agents

Via George King: MLB and NPB are still negotiating changes to the posting system and remain “several weeks” away from reaching an agreement. We heard the two sides were discussing changes in September and finalizing an agreement last month, but apparently recent progress has been slow. There has been talk about giving the player some more input into the process while MLB wants to cut posting fees.

Meanwhile, Jeff Passan reiterates that the Yankees are “going to be bold” in their pursuit of Rakuten Golden Eagles right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. Re-signing Robinson Cano and landing Tanaka are considered priorities 1 and 1a, he says. The team’s scouts — the same ones who declared Yu Darvish unfit for New York — compared Tanaka’s temperament and makeup to Hideki Matsui‘s. The luxury tax-exempt posting fee is expected to climb north of $75M, but Tanaka can not be posted until MLB and NPB reach an agreement. Between this and the Alex Rodriguez ruling, it seems like everything on New York’s plate this winter is being delayed as long as possible. Hopefully the offseason doesn’t pass them by.

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For the first time since August 2012, Masahiro Tanaka took a loss on Saturday. The Rakuten Golden Eagles ace allowed four runs on 12 hits and one walk while striking out seven against the Yomiuri Giants in the biggest game of his career — it forced a Game Seven in the Japan Series. Tanaka threw 160 pitches in his fourth complete game in five postseason starts. Those workloads are fairly common in Japan, where they pitch once a week rather than once every five days. His 30-start unbeaten streak came to an end and is the longest in the professional baseball history (by six!).

Update: Tanaka came out of the bullpen and threw 15 pitches to get the save in Game Seven on Sunday. It’s considered an honor for the team’s best pitcher to record the final out of the series in Japan, which is why he was used on zero days’ rest.

The Golden Eagles are expected to post Tanaka after the postseason and the Yankees “are going to be serious players” for the right-hander, who turned 25 on Friday. Jeff Passan posted an update on Tanaka and the reportedly forthcoming revisions to the posting system, so let’s round it up:

  • With teams having few places to spend money, Tanaka is expected to be the most expensive international import in baseball history. Several executives said they expect the posting fee, which won’t count towards the luxury tax, the be in the $75-100M range. The $51.7M posting fee the Rangers paid for the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish is the current record.
  • Tanaka doesn’t have an agent right now. He’s been focused on the playoffs and isn’t sorting through candidates. The timetable for picking a representative is unclear but it’s been speculated he has an agreement with an agent already in place. Obviously he needs to get that figured out before being posted.
  • Progress regarding the posting system changes has been slow because MLB wants to figure out a way to keep down posting fees. Haggling will delay the agreement, which means Tanaka may not be posted anytime soon even though the postseason is a few days from ending.
  • One proposal suggested the winning team would not have to pay the full amount of their bid. Instead, they would find a point midway between the high bid and second highest bid and instead pay that. The Rangers outbid everyone by roughly $20M for Darvish and clubs want some protection in case something like that happens again.
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Via Jorge Ebro (translated article): The Yankees were one of several teams to scout Cuban right-hander Ordisamer Despaigne during a recent workout in Barcelona. He will participate in some more formal showcase events in Mexico in the coming weeks. Despaigne defected at an airport in Paris and has not yet been cleared to sign by the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The internet has almost nothing on Despaigne. He’s 27 years old and he had a 3.27 ERA with 93 strikeouts and 53 walks in 143 innings last year before defecting. He has also never pitched in the World Baseball Classic, though his father Francisco did play ten years in Cuba, so at least there’s some baseball blood in the family. Ben Badler calls him “very fringy” and there isn’t even a grainy video on YouTube. So yeah, here’s the scouting report we have on Despaigne: he’s right-handed. Sign ‘em up.

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Via George King: The Yankees are among the teams scouting South Korean right-hander Seung-Hwan Oh. He will not be a free agent this winter but is expected to be made available through the posting process. The Yankees are said to have interest in Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka and Korean righty Suk-Min Yoon as well.

Oh, 31, has spent the last nine years with the Samsung Lions and, aside from injury-riddled 2009 and 2010 seasons, has more or less been the best closer in the Korea Baseball Organization during that time. He had a 1.74 ERA with 54 strikeouts and only ten walks in 51 2/3 innings this summer. His career stats are right here. As for a scouting report, King says Oh’s fastball is “between 94 and 96 mph and he has a splitter that disappears,” which is pretty much all the internet has to offer. There’s some video on YouTube.

Only two Asian relievers (Akinori Otsuka and Shinji Mori) have successfully gone through the posting process and both required six-figure bids. That was a long time ago though (2003 and 2005, respectively), so I’m guessing it’ll cost a couple million to talk to an established dominant closer these days. The track record of relievers coming over from Asia is actually really good and the Yankees need bullpen help, plus it would be neat to see them go outside the box for help with a guy like Oh. Assuming he’s good, of course.

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Yoon during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. (Presswire)

Yoon during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. (Presswire)

The Yankees are reportedly “going to be serious players” for Japanese-born right-hander Masahiro Tanaka this offseason, but he might not be the only Asian pitcher on their radar. Jee-Ho Yoo reports New York has interest in South Korean righty Suk-Min Yoon, who will be a true free agent this winter. Scott Boras told George King he plans to discuss the right-hander/his client with Brian Cashman this coming week.

Yoon, 27, is currently going through the status check process required to be eligible to sign with a Major League club. His team, the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization, declined his requests to be made available to big league teams via the posting process after both the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The Twins are among the other clubs that are said to have interest in the righty.

In 87.2 innings spread across 30 appearances this year, Yoon had a 4.00 ERA with 76 strikeouts (7.8 K/9 and 20.4 K%) and 28 walks (2.87 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%). He has had on and off shoulder problems over the years, including an issue that limited him to relief work this season. Yoon was named the league MVP in 2011 (2.45 ERA in 172.1 innings) and he has a ton of international experience, both in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic.

“He’s a 91-92 guy. He’s a good pitcher … not an overpowering arm,” said Boras to King. Baseball America and Jeff Passan says he backs up the low-90s fastball with a hard slider and “what one scout deemed an above-average changeup.” Yoon is listed at 6-foot-0 and 187 lbs., and he’s been the second best pitcher in South Korea behind current Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu the last half-decade or so. There’s plenty of video on YouTube.

Everything I know about Yoon is in this post, so I don’t know if he’s worth a Wei-Yin Chen contract (three years, $11.1M) or a Ryu contract (six years, $36M). The history of shoulder problems scares me and given how much higher the level of competition is in MLB compared to KBO, I wonder if he’s a long-term reliever over here. There’s nothing wrong with that, relievers are people too, but you know Boras is going to be pushing him as a starter and asking for big bucks.

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Via Jesse Sanchez: The White Sox have agreed to sign Cuban slugger Jose Abreu to a six-year contract worth $68M. The deal is still pending a physical and is (by far) the largest contract ever give to an international free agent, topping the $42M deal the Dodgers gave Yasiel Puig last summer. The White Sox have a pretty good history with Cuban-born players, most notably Jose Contreras, Alexei Ramirez, and Dayan Viciedo.

The Yankees were reportedly among the teams scouting the 26-year-old Abreu, who held some showcase events at their complex in the Dominican Republic last month. I never thought the Bombers were serious about signing him, especially at a price like that. With their payroll coming down and so many other holes on the roster to fill, signing another first base/DH type to a huge contract doesn’t make much sense. If they make a big international splash this winter, I suspect it’ll be for Masahiro Tanaka.

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Via George King: Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka “is a priority” for the Yankees this winter, and they “are going to be serious players” in the posting process. “He is better than [Yu Darvish] because he is a strike thrower,’’ said one overly-enthusiastic scout. “Overall, Darvish’s stuff might be a little bit better, but this guy knows how to pitch. He is like [Hiroki Kuroda], he has a lot of guts. He throws four pitches but when it gets to [stone]-cutting time, it’s fastball and splitter.’’

Tanaka, 25 next month, had a 1.24 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 181 innings for the Rakuten Golden Eagles this year. He is indeed expected to be posted this winter. The Yankees have been scouting him quite a bit in recent weeks, most notably sending assistant GM Billy Eppler and special assignment scout Don Wakamatsu to see him. King spoke to several executives who expect the bidding to approach $60M, which would be a record. Only the contract, not the posting fee, would count against the luxury tax. The Yankees have shied away from Japanese players (via the posting process) since the Kei Igawa disaster, so bidding big on Tanaka would be a big chance of pace.

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Via NY Post: The Yankees are among several clubs scouting Cuban slugger Jose Abreu during his workouts in the Dominican Republic. He held two showcase events at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic late last month, according to Ben Badler. Abreu was recently declared a free agent is now able to negotiate and sign with any team.

Badler recently described the 26-year-old Abreu as “an intelligent hitter without a lot of effort in in his swing and the power to hit 30-plus homers in a season … (though) some scouts consider his bat speed only fair.” He has an unorthodox double toe-tap and, like many Cuban hitters, is prone to breaking balls off the plate. Abreu is a big dude — listed at 6-foot-2 and 258 lbs. — with crazy numbers in Cuba, including a .382/.525/.735 line this year and .394/.542/.837 last year. The report says Abreu is expected to sign a deal in the Yoenis Cespedes ($36M) to Yasiel Puig ($42M) range.

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Via Jesse Sanchez: Cuban slugger Jose Abreu has officially been declared a free agent and cleared to both negotiate and sign with any team. He defected to somewhere in the Caribbean just last month, so the process didn’t take all that long. MLB has been looking to slow down the signing process for Cuban players.

Ben Badler described the 26-year-old Abreu as “an intelligent hitter without a lot of effort in in his swing and the power to hit 30-plus homers in a season … (though) some scouts consider his bat speed only fair.” He has a unorthodox double toe-tap and, like many Cuban hitters, is prone to breaking balls off the plate. Abreu is a big boy — he’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 258lbs. — with outrageous numbers in Cuba, including a .382/.525/.735 line this year and .394/.542/.837 last year. There’s plenty of video on YouTube.

The Giants, Red Sox, Rangers, Mets, White Sox, Pirates, and Marlins have all been rumored to have some interest in Abreu. Mike Napoli and Kendrys Morales will be the best free agent first base/DH types this winter, so Abreu is hitting the market at a good time. The Yankees need right-handed power and quality bats in general, but they already have a bunch of first base/DH types under contract. Can’t just ignore positional needs. Abreu doesn’t make much sense for New York.

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Via David Lennon: Significant changes to the posting system used to bring players from Japan over to MLB are in the works and could be implemented as soon as this winter. The two sides have been talking about making changes for a while now. “We’ve been in discussions with NPB for some time now and we continue to work through the different scenarios and resolutions.,” said Kim Ng, former Yankees executive and current senior VP of Baseball Ops with MLB.

Under the current system, teams submit blind bids for the rights to negotiate a contract with the player. Lennon says the proposed system could have as many three teams chosen as the high bidder, with the player then allowed to pick the team he wants to negotiate with. The new system would give the player some input into the process and deter teams from making token bids if they aren’t all that serious about acquiring the player. The Yankees have not seriously pursued a player through the posting system since Kei Igawa, but they have been scouting Masahiro Tanaka recently.

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