Reviewing the Yankees’ 2013 international signings

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.


Badler: Yankees sign Leonardo Molina for $1.4M

Via Ben Badler: The Yankees have signed Dominican outfielder Leonardo Molina for $1.4M. He just turned 16 today, which is why they couldn’t sign him when the international signing period opened on July 2nd. The Yankees were said to be the “most likely landing spot” for Molina back in May. He isn’t related to the Puerto Rican catching trio.

Molina, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 165 lbs., was ranked as the fifth best international prospect by Baseball America a few weeks ago. In the subscriber-only scouting report, they say he is “an explosive, quick-twitch player” and “the most athletic prospect in Latin America.” Molina projects as a true center fielder with above-average speed and arm strength, though they say his right-handed swing “has some funkiness to it with a flat finish, but he seems to find a way to get the barrel to the ball.” Here’s video.

Between Molina and Yonauris Rodriguez (signed for $550k last month), the Yankees are $72,100 over their $1,877,900 international spending pool. The 3.2% excess results in a 75% tax on the overage ($54,075). If they go more than 5% over the pool, their spending next year will be limited. The Yankees could always trade for more spending money, however.

Badler: Yankees are “most likely landing spot” for Leonardo Molina

Via Ben Badler (subs. req’d): The Yankees are the “most likely landing spot” for Dominican outfield prospect Leonardo Molina once this year’s international signing period opens on July 2nd. They have $1.18-1.88M to spend internationally this summer, depending on whether there is free agency or an international draft.

Molina, who has no relation to the Puerto Rican-born catching trio, is the top prospect in the Dominican Prospect League and one of the best athletes available this year. He is listed at 6-foot-2 and 170 lbs., and Badler says he’s a “plus-plus runner with a strong arm, giving him the tools to be an excellent defender in center field once he refines his routes.” Molina offers good bat speed from the right side but he needs to refine his swing a bit to tap into his offensive potential. He can’t sign until he turns 16 on August 1st, but is likely to land a seven-figure bonus once eligible.