The New Prospect: SS Alexander Vargas
Vargas, a 16-year-old switch-hitter, hit the international market late because he had not yet been cleared to sign after defecting from Cuba. Once he was cleared, the Yankees landed him for a $2.5M bonus, reports Jesse Sanchez. MLB.com ranked Vargas as the eighth best prospect available during the 2018-19 signing period. A snippet of their write-up:
On offense, he has shown a plus hit tool and is known for making hard contact. He might be a better overall hitter from the left side at the moment, but he shows more power from the right side … Some believe he has the potential to steal 30 bases in the big leagues and sport a .270 batting average. One of the top defenders in this year’s class, Vargas has above average hands with a strong arm and good range to both sides. He’s known for his quick first steps, good body control and fearless approach on offense and defense. He’s also wowed scouts with his ability to track down fly balls in center field.
FanGraphs ranked Vargas as the 14th best prospect in the signing period and says there is “interesting raw material here, nothing explosive.” The Yankees never announce signing bonuses but they did announce the Vargas signing earlier this week, so it is a done deal. The $2.5M bonus is the largest they’ve given an international player since signing 1B Dermis Garcia for $3.2M in 2014.
Yankees sign Verdecia, pursuing Gaston
In addition to Vargas, the Yankees also signed Cuban SS Carlos Verdecia recently, reports Jesse Sanchez. Verdecia received a $325,000 bonus. MLB.com, Baseball America, and FanGraphs did not rank him among the top international prospects available this signing period. I can’t find anything on the kid, though $325,000 is a good sized bonus, so the Yankees think Verdecia has some ability.
Also, according to Jesse Sanchez, the Yankees are pursuing 16-year-old Cuban RHP Sandy Gaston. FanGraphs and Baseball America rank him as the 20th and 24th best prospect in the international class, respectively. MLB.com ranks Gaston as the 15th best prospect in the international class and he is the top unsigned prospect. A piece of their scouting report:
His fastball has been clocked as 97 mph and it’s not uncommon for him to sit at 94-95. That type of velocity is rare in any market and not surprisingly, some scouts wonder if he will be able to command the high velocity on a consistent basis … In terms of secondary pitches, the belief is that those will develop once he signs with a team and receives daily instruction in an academy.
According to MLB.com, the Yankees have signed the No. 8 (Vargas), No. 10 (RHP Osiel Rodriguez), No. 11 (OF Kevin Alcantara), and No. 12 (C Antonio Gomez) prospects available this signing period. Landing Gaston would give them five of the top 15. Pretty cool.
Miscellaneous Bonuses: Rodriguez, Alcantara
Although the Yankees have already finalized a bunch of signings, the dollar figures are just now starting to trickle in. Here are the previously reported bonuses and the new bonuses in one convenient place:
- SS Alexander Vargas: $2.5M
- OF Kevin Alcantara: $1M (per Jesse Sanchez)
- C Antonio Gomez: $600,000
- RHP Osiel Rodriguez: $600,000 (per Jesse Sanchez)
- RHP Denny Larrondo: $550,000
- SS Maikol Escotto: $350,000 (per Baseball America)
- RHP Juan Carela: $335,000
Rodriguez was originally mentioned as a potential $1M bonus guy, though he signed for $600,000. I wonder what that’s about. Someone get bad information? Or did something pop up in his physical and prompt the Yankees to lower their offer? My guess is it’s the former. The latter would stink.
Anyway, those seven players add up to $5,935,000 in bonuses. However, the Yankees have announced 23 total signings in recent weeks (first announcement, second announcement), so 16 bonuses are still unaccounted for. Players who sign for $10,000 or less are exempt from the bonus pool. I doubt those other 16 players signed for $10,000 or less.
In fact, according to Jesse Sanchez, the Yankees have spent $7.9M in bonus pool money already. They’ve spent $7.9M of their $8,721,125 bonus pool, so they still have about $820,000 to play with. Some or all of it could go to Gaston. What this does mean is the Yankees are almost certainly out of the running for Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, the consensus top talent on the international market this summer.
There’s no reason to think Victor², who has not yet been cleared to sign, will sell himself way short and sign for a mere $820,000. The Yankees have the smallest bonus pool due to their market size, so other clubs can offer him lots more money. The Orioles, for example, reportedly have $8.5M available and intend to renew their emphasis on international free agency. Seems like the Yankees knew they had no shot at Victor², so they pivoted and signed a bunch of other players instead. Works for me.