Saturday Links: Castro, A-Rod, Draft, Ibanez, Heredia

Starlin ... and Manny! (Presswire)
Starlin … and Manny! (Presswire)

The Yankees and Red Sox continue their three-game series later tonight. So, until then, here are some spare links I had lying around to hold you over.

Start the Starlin Castro rumor mill

According to Jon Heyman, several executive are speculating the Yankees will pursue Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro due to his connection to Jim Hendry, currently a special assistant with New York who was the Cubs GM when the team signed (and called up) Castro. Just to be clear, Heyman is passing along speculation, not a hard rumor that the Yankees are pursuing Castro.

Anyway, I wanted the Yankees to acquire Castro in the offseason to play shortstop, so of course he is hitting .249/.282/.323 (63 wRC+) on the season. (Reminder: Don’t ever listen to me. I’m awful.) Castro is still only 25 though, and he did hit .292/.339/.438 (115 wRC+) just last year, so it’s not like there’s nothing to like here. There’s about $43M left on his contract through 2019 with a club option for 2020.

Castro is seen as a change of scenery guy — the Cubs surely want to put Addison Russell at short — but he’s not a shortstop, his defense is terrible, so maybe the Yankees look at him for second base. If so, the move would probably wait until the offseason. I doubt they’d throw him to the wolves defensively and make him learn second on the fly a la Stephen Drew last year. Either way, my guess is we’ll hear lots more about the Yankees and Castro in the coming weeks and months.

The real cost of A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit ball

Last week, the Yankees agreed to donate $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball in exchange for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th hit baseball. Noted ballhawk Zack Hample caught the ball and leveraged it into a big fat donation for a charity he supports. Good for him. Of course, there’s much more to this story. Hample told Shawn Anderson the Yanks gave him a ton of other stuff in exchange for the ball as well:

“The Yankees have given me all the things they initially offered, such as meeting A-Rod, doing a press conference at Yankee Stadium, being interviewed live during the game on TV and the radio, and receiving signed memorabilia and free tickets, including tickets to this year’s Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in Cincinnati.” Hample told The Hall exclusively. “I will also have opportunities to write for Yankees Magazine, get a special behind-the-scenes tour to the most restricted areas of the stadium that no one in the public gets to see, get to meet the players, and more. There are certain things I’ve been asked not to talk about, so I need to respect that.”

Geez, that was one mighty valuable baseball, huh? Give Hample props for holding out for the donation rather than taking all that cool free stuff and running. That’s probably what I would have done.

2015 Draft signing updates

Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)
Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)

The signing deadline for the 2015 draft is next Friday, and the Yankees recently signed both UC Santa Barbara C/RHP Paddy O’Brien (24th round) and Indiana RHP Christian Morris (33rd). Morris announced his signing on Twitter while O’Brien is currently listed on the Rookie GCL Yanks2 roster. No word on their bonuses but I assume they didn’t receive more than the $100,000 slot for picks after the tenth round. O’Brien was a catcher in college who the Yankees are apparently going to try on the mound because he has a strong arm.

By my count the Yankees have signed 33 of their 41 draft picks, which is an unusually large number. Teams usually sign something like 25-30 picks each year. The Yankees will make it 34 of 41 when they sign UCLA RHP James Kaprielian (1st) next week — Jim Callis backed up Heyman’s recent report and says Kaprielian will get an overslot bonus in the $3M range — which I’m confident will happen. The Yankees have a bit more than $3M to spend before getting hit with penalties and there’s nowhere else to spend it — the late-round overslot candidates probably aren’t going to sign at this point — so that money either goes to Kaprielian or Hal Steinbrenner.

Rangers sign Andy Ibanez

Earlier this week the Rangers signed free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez to a minor league contract worth $1.6M, reports Jeff Wilson and Jesse Sanchez. Ibanez, 21, was cleared to sign way back in February but took his sweet time picking a team. The Yankees had him in Tampa for a private workout in May and were reportedly interested, though they were unable to offer him anything more than $300,000 once the 2014-15 international signing period ended a few weeks ago. Ibanez is a light hitting second baseman who was expected to get upwards of $15M, though it sounds like teams didn’t value him that highly. You have to think he would have topped $1.6M easily if clubs felt he was as good as the public scouting reports.

Cuban OF Guillermo Heredia cleared to sign

According to Ben Badler and Jesse Sanchez, 24-year-old Cuban outfielder Guillermo Heredia has been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and declared a free agent by MLB, so he can sign with any team at any time. Heredia is not subject to the international spending restrictions because of his age, so the Yankees and any other team can offer him any amount.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 lbs., Heredia is considered a good defensive center fielder with speed and a strong arm. Badler (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 11th best prospect in Cuba last August and said he has “similarities to a righthanded-hitting version of Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley,” which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement these days. Heredia will work out for scouts soon.

Saturday Links: Stottlemyre, Betances, Didi, Mock Drafts

Stottlemyre during his playing days. (Presswire)
Stottlemyre during his playing days. (Presswire)

Once again, the Yankees are playing a Saturday night game this week, though at least this one is on the East Coast. Including tonight, their next three and four of their next five Saturday games are night games. Blah. Anyway, here are some links to hold you over until the Yankees and Angels resume their series later tonight.

Mel Stottlemyre Battling Cancer Again

Former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre is again battling cancer, reports John Harper. The 73-year-old Stottlemyre was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, while on Joe Torre’s staff back in 2000, and he was told he only had 3-5 years to live. He’s outshot that projection by a decade, but the cancer returned in late-2011 and he has been undergoing treatment since.

“It’s been tough because so much of my life is controlled by doctors, by the cancer. And the side effects of the treatment have been nasty, there’s no getting around it. But I’m determined that I can beat this thing. There are times when I have my doubts but it’s not going to get me down,” said Stottlemyre to Harper. Among the side effects from the medication are heart and thyroid conditions, and a form of diabetes. He also has an Achilles tendon issue, but can’t undergo surgery due to chemotherapy.

Despite the cancer and the treatment, Stottlemyre said he is going to try to make it to Yankee Stadium for Old Timers’ Day later this month. “I want to be there in the worst way,” he said. His wife Jean said they are going to try to attend as well, though the travel from their home in Washington might be too much. Either way, let’s hope for the best for Stottlemyre, a longtime cancer survivor who is trying to do it again.

Betances Gets Pointers From Rivera

Earlier this season, when Dellin Betances was really struggling with his command, the big right-hander got some pointers from Mariano Rivera, writes Kevin Kernan. “Towards the beginning of the season when I was struggling early on, Mo told me a couple of pointers that really helped,” said Betances. “He told me he felt like my front shoulder was flying open and he offered some tips. I dropped the shoulder a little bit to stay within a straight line and have a good direction towards home, and I think that has helped me be more successful and more consistent.’’

Betances said Rivera also reminded him to “stay locked in and have confidence,” even while struggling. “Hearing that from him makes such a difference. I’ve been able to use that advice to my advantage,” he added. Dellin’s numbers since his early-April struggles are insane — he went into last night’s game with five hits and six walks allowed in his last 24 innings, with 43 strikeouts. Bonkers. Somehow Betances has been even better than last year. If only Rivera’s words had that much of an impact on everyone.

Gregorius Gets Pointers From A-Rod, Beltran

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Meanwhile, the Yankees have turned to two current veteran players to help shortstop Didi Gregorius, who has improved at the plate lately but has struggled overall. In addition to hitting coach Jeff Pentland and assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell, both Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran have been helping Gregorius in recent weeks, reports George King. “Alex and Carlos had a big hand in talking to Didi,’’ said Pentland.

“You have to have the same approach in the batting cage that you do in the game, and that was something that was missing to me. He is the guy who has to go out and do it. Hopefully he has found something to work with,” said Beltran, who added he considers helping young players part of a veteran’s job. Both Beltran and A-Rod encouraged Gregorius to be “more selective in the (strike) zone” as well. This is the second time Rodriguez has lent a hand coaching Didi — he worked with him at shortstop a few weeks go.

Yankees Invite Whitley For Private Workout

According to Dan Zielinksi, the Yankees had New York HS OF Garrett Whitley in for a private workout before Monday’s draft. (Whitley said he worked out for the Braves and Brewers as well.) I’m not sure if the workout took place in Yankee Stadium or in Tampa, but that doesn’t really matter. Here’s my profile on Whitley, a projected first round pick and one of the highest upside players in the draft. Pre-draft workouts are not uncommon but teams don’t invite just anyone either — they’re usually reserved for players clubs have significant interest in, and, more than anything, the workout is so more members of the brain trust can see the player, including the higher ups. There’s no word on who else the Yankees brought in for a pre-draft workout.

Baseball Prospectus’ Mock Draft v2.0

Over at Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d), Chris Crawford posted his second mock draft yesterday, and, like everyone else, he has the Diamondbacks taking Vanderbilt SS Dansby Swanson with the first overall pick. That’s not set in stone just yet, but it sure looks like Arizona is leaning in that direction. Crawford has the Yankees selecting Whitley and California HS C Chris Betts with their top two picks, 16th and 30th overall, respectively. Here’s my profile on Betts. (The Whitley profile is linked above.) The Yankees have been connected to both players for weeks now. There’s a decent chance Whitley will be off the board by time that 16th pick comes around, but Betts should still be available.

MLB.com’s Mock Draft v4.0

Meanwhile, Jim Callis posted his latest mock draft yesterday as well. He also has the D’Backs taking Swanson with the top pick. As for the Yankees, Callis has them picking UCLA RHP James Kaprielian and Betts with those 16th and 30th overall picks, respectively. Here’s my profile on Kaprielian. (Again, the Betts profile is linked above.) Callis says the Yankees “want a college pitcher,” but we’ve also heard they want a bat, so who really knows. This draft is very deep in right-handed pitchers, both high school and college, so the best available player for that 16th pick could easily be an arm.

Four Players To Attend 2015 Draft

According to MLB, four players will be at the MLB Network studios for the draft broadcast on Monday: Whitley, Florida HS SS Brendan Rodgers, Indiana HS RHP Ashe Russell, and Pennsylvania HS RH Mike Nikorak. Rodgers is a likely top five pick — he was a candidate to go first overall, but apparently the D’Backs want a quick moving college player — while the Yankees have been connected to the other three guys at various points these last few weeks. Here are my profiles for Russell and Nikorak. Look up a few paragraphs for the Whitley profile. It would be pretty neat if the Yankees drafted a kid who was actually in the studio, wouldn’t it?

Ibanez Changes Agents

Free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez recently changed agents, according to Ben Badler. Ibanez left Praver Shapiro Sports Management and is now represented by Relativity Sports. He has been eligible to sign since February, but Badler says Ibanez is likely to wait to sign until after July 2nd so his bonus (and penalties) get pushed to the 2015-16 signing period. The Yankees have shown some interest in Ibanez, a 22-year-old light hitting/good fielding second baseman, but if he waits until July 2nd, they’ll have no shot to sign him. Part of the penalties for last year’s international spending spree is a bonus cap of $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, and $300,000 won’t be enough for Ibanez.

Yankees held private workout for Andy Ibanez in Tampa this week

Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)
Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)

According to George King and Dan Martin, the Yankees held a private workout for free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez at their complex in Tampa earlier this week. The team also scouted him during a workout in Miami last month.

Ibanez, 21, has already been declared a free agent by MLB and unblocked by a Office of Foreign Assets Control, so he is free to sign at any time. King and Martin say he is expected to get a bonus in the $10M neighborhood, which would be taxed at 100% regardless of which team signs him. That would exceed all 30 bonus pools.

Before defecting, Ibanez hit .283/.348/.419 with 60 doubles and 13 home runs in 242 games in the Cuban league. He was on Cuba’s roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic but rode the bench in the deference to their veteran infielders. Here’s a scouting report from Ben Badler:

At 5-foot-11, 183 pounds, Ibanez has a thicker build for a middle infielder but he’s athletic and has good body control. With fringy speed and an average arm at best, Ibanez isn’t flashy, but he has a good internal clock and a high baseball IQ, fitting best at second base. Ibanez’s power is mostly to the gaps, projecting as a doubles hitters rather than a big home run threat, but what’s sold some scouts on him is his bat.

“He’s a strong guy who doesn’t have your prototype, ideal body for a second baseman, but he moves around well for his stature,” said another scout. “And he performs. He’s a good hitter. I liked his swing and the way he manipulated the bat.”

Ibanez is subject to the international spending restrictions, so the Yankees are free to sign him for any amount prior to June 25th. But, after that, they will only be able to offer him $300,000 as a result of the penalties from last July’s international spending spree. I’m not sure why Ibanez is waiting to sign. You’d think he’d want to sign quickly and start playing in the minors to get his career underway.

Inviting Ibanez in for a private workout really doesn’t mean much of anything. The Yankees had Aledmys Diaz in for a private workout last year and they had Yoan Moncada in for three separate private workouts this offseason, but didn’t sign either player. It’s been a while since the Yankees signed a premium Cuban player. Jose Contreras was the last.

Ibanez is not on the same level as Moncada but he has some ability and is expected to be able to help at the MLB level in the near future. Accumulating middle infield depth is always a good thing, and that goes double for the Yankees, since it’s unclear if they have a long-term shortstop or second baseman in the organization right now. (The jury is still out on Didi Gregorius and Rob Refsnyder.)

Until the Yankees actually step up and sign a top Cuban free agent, I won’t expect them to do it. They’ve done the song and dance with several players in recent years — Diaz, Moncada, Yasmany Tomas, Yoan Lopez, and others — but didn’t sign any of them. These private workouts are fake interest until they sign one of these guys, as far as I’m concerned.

Sanchez: Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez planning showcases for scouts this month

Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)
Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)

According to Jesse Sanchez, free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez is planning to hold showcase events for scouts in Miami later this month. He was cleared to sign by MLB and the Office of Foreign Assets Control back in February.

Ibanez, 21, hit .283/.348/.419 with 60 doubles and 13 home runs in 242 games in the Cuban league from 2011-13 before defecting. He was on Cuba’s roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic but rode the bench in the deference to their veteran infielders. Here’s a mini-scouting report from Ben Badler:

At 5-foot-11, 183 pounds, Ibanez has a thicker build for a middle infielder but he’s athletic and has good body control. With fringy speed and an average arm at best, Ibanez isn’t flashy, but he has a good internal clock and a high baseball IQ, fitting best at second base. Ibanez’s power is mostly to the gaps, projecting as a doubles hitters rather than a big home run threat, but what’s sold some scouts on him is his bat.

“He’s a strong guy who doesn’t have your prototype, ideal body for a second baseman, but he moves around well for his stature,” said another scout. “And he performs. He’s a good hitter. I liked his swing and the way he manipulated the bat.”

The Yankees have been rumored to have interest in Ibanez and I’m sure they’ll attend his upcoming showcases. They seem to go to all of ’em. Ibanez is no budding star like Yoan Moncada, however. He’s looked at as more of a solid player going forward. A complementary piece, not a centerpiece. Think Adeiny Hechavarria or Jose Iglesias, not Yasiel Puig or Jose Abreu. Then again, who knows. Cuban players have shown a knack for outperforming expectations.

Because of his age and limited experience in Cuba, Ibanez is subject to the international spending restrictions. The Yankees are free to sign him for any amount prior to June 25th, but, after that, they will only be able to offer him $300,000 as a result of the penalties from last July’s international spending spree. The Angels signed the less-heralded Roberto Baldoquin to an $8M bonus back in January, and I’m guessing it’ll take similar if not more money to get Ibanez.

As always, it makes sense for the Yankees to add talent whenever possible, and by all accounts Ibanez has some skills and will be able to help an MLB club in some capacity in the near future. The Yankees don’t have a long-term solution at second base — they might have one in Rob Refsnyder — and middle infield talent is hard to find in general. Of course, the Yankees always seem to stop just short of offering enough to sign a Cuban player. Enough to say we tried but not enough to get him. Until they buck the trend and sign one of these guys, I have no reason to think they’ll actually do it.

Sanchez: Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez free to sign, Yanks among teams interested

Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)
Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)

The alternative to Yoan Moncada is now free to sign. According to Jesse Sanchez, Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez has been declared a free agent by MLB and unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, so can now officially sign with a team. Infielder Hector Olivera has still not been cleared to sign, by the way.

Ibanez, who turns 22 in April, left Cuba last fall and held open showcases for teams in December and January with a few private workouts mixed in, according to Ben Badler. No word on which teams brought him in for a private workout, however. Here are Ibanez’s stats from the Cuban league before defecting, courtesy of Baseball Reference:

Year Age AgeDif Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2011 18 -8.7 Isla de la Juventud 88 321 36 82 18 2 3 36 2 4 11 53 .278 .309 .383 .692
2012 19 -8.7 Isla de la Juventud 80 330 37 87 29 0 4 29 6 5 27 38 .300 .361 .441 .802
2013 20 -8.6 Isla de la Juventud 74 280 33 62 13 4 6 32 6 5 33 28 .267 .377 .435 .812
3 Seasons 242 931 106 231 60 6 13 97 14 14 71 119 .283 .348 .419 .767

Ibanez, a right-handed hitter, was the youngest player on Cuba’s roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic but he only received one at-bat during the tournament because the club had veterans all around the infield. Here’s a quick little scouting report from Badler:

At 5-foot-11, 183 pounds, Ibanez has a thicker build for a middle infielder but he’s athletic and has good body control. With fringy speed and an average arm at best, Ibanez isn’t flashy, but he has a good internal clock and a high baseball IQ, fitting best at second base. Ibanez’s power is mostly to the gaps, projecting as a doubles hitters rather than a big home run threat, but what’s sold some scouts on him is his bat.

“He’s a strong guy who doesn’t have your prototype, ideal body for a second baseman, but he moves around well for his stature,” said another scout. “And he performs. He’s a good hitter. I liked his swing and the way he manipulated the bat.”

Sanchez says the Yankees are one of seven teams with interest in Ibanez. “Ibanez is ready to sign and he could come to terms with a team once Moncada is off the board,” wrote Sanchez. “There’s the notion he could sign before Moncada because some teams consider him a less expensive alternative and want to get him into camp for Spring Training.”

Because of his age and general lack of experience in Cuba, Ibanez is subject to the international spending restrictions like Moncada. No word on what it’ll take to sign him, but the Angels gave infielder Roberto Baldoquin, who is considered a lesser prospect than Ibanez, an $8M bonus a few weeks ago. Maybe that means Ibanez will end up with $10M to $15M. Who knows. Either way, it’ll be taxed at 100%.

It goes without saying Moncada should continue to be the Yankees’ top priority based on everything we know. Ibanez is a secondary target who seems like a potential everyday second baseman, not a star, and that’s something the Yankees could use long-term. Badler says Ibanez is likely to begin his pro career in either High Class-A or Double-A, so he’s not an immediate impact guy. He’s not the sexiest target, but he’s a young player who fits.

Badler: Second baseman Andy Ibanez leaves Cuba

Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)
Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)

According to Ben Badler, second baseman Andy Ibanez has left Cuba and will pursue a contract with a big league team. He still needs to establish residency in a foreign country, be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and officially be declared a free agent by MLB before he can sign. That process will take several weeks and months.

Ibanez, 21, was the youngest player on Cuba’s roster during the World Baseball Classic last year, though he only received one at-bat in the tournament. He hit .267/.377/.435 with more walks (33) than strikeouts (28) in 280 plate appearances this past season after winning the Cuban league’s equivalent of the Gold Glove as a rookie two years ago.

Balder (subs. req’d) ranked Ibanez as the eighth best prospect left in Cuba last month — recently defected second baseman Jose Fernandez ranked third — and said he “doesn’t have any premium tools or star upside” while noting his value is in his athleticism and all-around game. He’s said to be a very good fielder and able to get the bat on the ball consistently.

It’s worth noting that because of his age and limited experience in Cuba, Ibanez will be subject to MLB’s international spending restrictions. The Yankees went bonkers this summer and way overspent their bonus pool, so they will not be allowed to sign a player to a bonus larger than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods. Something tells me $300,000 won’t cut it.

However, if Ibanez goes is declared a free agent before June 15th, he’d count against the current signing period. The Yankees are already way over their pool and would be able to offer him whatever they want without worrying about some spending cap. It took Rusney Castillo six months to be declared a free agent after defecting and Yasmany Tomas only four months. That doesn’t necessarily mean Ibanez will be eligible to sign before June 15th, but it looks like it has a good chance of happening.

Anyway, Ibanez is more like Jose Iglesias and Jorge Soler than Castillo and Jose Abreu because he’s so young. He’s not someone the Yankees could stick right into the lineup next year — Badler says Ibanez would likely have to start his career in High-A or Double-A. There’s no word if the Yankees or any other team have interest in him, but we’re still a few weeks away from that. Needless to say, teams are always looking for young and athletic middle infielders.