How the Yankees and other teams are breaking the international signing system.
With the recent signing of 16-year-old Colombian outfielder Bryan Emery, the New York Yankees completed a Shermanesque raid of Baseball America’s international top prospects list, nabbing a staggering 10 out of the top 30 (and four of the top 10!) players available for the 2014-2015 signing period. And they did so while setting ablaze what’s left of Major League Baseball’s international spending rules, a system that was implemented when the CBA was redesigned in 2012 in part, however clumsily, to curb international spending and promote competitive balance.
Emery is, like most young international prospects, more project than finished product, with an expected big-league arrival time around the midpoint of Giancarlo’s Stanton’s 13-year contract extension, and that’s if everything goes right. As Ben Badler describes, “there’s breakout potential given the swing and tool package, but it may take him time for his game skills to catch up.”
More interesting than Emery, who was apparently targeted for the Padres prior to Josh Byrnes’ dismissal as general manager in June, is the Yankees’ international strategy in general, which essentially boils down to “sign everyone.” It’s a strategy New York has used in major-league free agency a time or two, but one they’ve generally neglected in the international realm, perhaps because major investments in young foreign talent take time to pay dividends, something that hasn’t always fit the Yankees’ win-now-at-all-costs blueprint.
Part of the goal of the 2012-2016 CBA was to limit spending on amateur players, with soft spending caps instituted in both the Rule 4 amateur draft and the international amateur market. While most general managers, scouts, and baseball executives (and anyone else with a say in the matter) opposed the spending restrictions, team owners generally welcomed the prospect of writing smaller checks to unproven talent. The players’ union, for all of its strength, is historically flimsy when the bargaining rights of non-union players are concerned.
Under the current rules, teams are assigned international signing bonus pools based on records in the previous season. In the 2014-2015 signing period, for instance, the international bonus pools range from just over $5 million (Houston Astros) on the high end to $1.87 million (St. Louis Cardinals) on the low end. Each team receives four slot values ranging from No. 1 to No. 120 plus a $700,000 base, allowing clubs to trade bonus pool dollars for other players or slot values. The Cubs and Braves, for example, recently completed a trade that netted the Braves an additional $800,000 in international bonus pool flexibility.
The question posed by, and hopefully answered in, this post is which relief pitcher had the best single season in recent history. The first hurdle to all of this is figuring out the best way to measure reliever performance. In the past I’ve hung my hat on either WPA (especially for closers) or RE24, because they capture the unique responsibilities of relief pitchers better than something like ERA or WARP.
The Yankees are looking at top setup men, the Panda might be moving soon, and Matt Joyce is available. Would his power be part of the package?
Yankees eyeing Jason Grilli as Plan B
After fanning 96 batters in 64 innings as the Yankees closer in 2014, David Robertson is in line for a hefty payday. Sources told WFAN beat reporter Sweeny Murti that the 29-year-old can expect to receive $13 million a year for either three or four years, for a total outlay of $39-52 million.
The Yankees still have holes to fill on their way back to contention, but they also have plenty of players who could be useful to your fantasy squad.
Coming off a disappointing 2013 season that saw them win just 85 games, the Yankees threw money around last offseason like it was about to hit its expiration date. Now, after another subpar campaign in 2014—winning one fewer game than the year prior—the question is will they or won’t they?
With no shortage of holes to fill (pretty much the whole infield and a few rotation spots) and very little coming by way of the farm system (we’ll get to that below), the Yankees may be forced to bring their payroll above any point in franchise history just to field a playoff-caliber roster. However, until that happens, we’re left examining a very expensive building with an unfinished façade.
Eyes on Dalton Pompey, Josh Bell, Raul Mondesi and others.
This group includes players with near MLB-ready skill sets who are in the AFL to put the finishing touches on their profile as they get ready to compete for a big-league job in 2015.
RHP Francellis Montas (White Sox)
He's been a starter for almost his entire career, and if the White Sox are hell-bent on developing him into a major-league starter then he's still a long way off. But if they are willing to shift him to the bullpen his stuff is ready. He sat 97-99 and touched 100 mph several times in his start against Salt River. His 89-92 mph slider has obvious power and the 87-90 mph changeup is a solid change of pace. He lacks the command to be a starter in the short term and there is very little deception to the delivery. The White Sox have pushed their prospects as aggressively as any organization, and if they are willing to move him to the bullpen then Montas' stuff should be ready for the South Side on opening day this year. When he gets hit, he'll get hit hard, but he should be able to blow away a significant number of hitters, too, and has a three-true-outcomes type of profile.
A look at the prospectiest prospects at this year's AFL, including Byron Buxton, Addison Russell, and Archie Bradley.
These players are well known for their loud tools. This section is mean to serve as an update on these prospects and their current location along the developmental timeline.
OF Byron Buxton (Twins)
The 2014 season wasn't Byron Buxton's year. He spent time on the disabled list with multiple wrist injuries and a concussion sustained in an outfield collision in his first game at Double-A. He went to the AFL looking to make up for lost time. While his AFL season was also cut short after he dislocated the middle finger on his left hand, he first proved that his elite tools were intact. More importantly, his potential impact to the Twins remains practically unchanged, other than a year delay in his timeline. The Twins enter the offseason with a murky outfield picture, but Buxton’s lost developmental year inhibits his ability to take advantage of the opportunity—though a premium athlete like Buxton could hold his own while taking his lumps and learning hard lessons at the major-league level. He was already expected to open 2015 in the minors, at least for financial reasons, but his loss of development time may necessitate spending the entire 2015 season there. The tools he showcased in the AFL were as advertised: plus-plus bat speed with a loose swing with a quick-twitch trigger; an 80 runner in center with a plus arm and plus accuracy. One of the highlights of the AFL was his stolen base off of Rays C Justin O'Connor, who popped a 1.84 attempting but couldn’t throw Buxton out. The takeaway from his brief AFL stint is that in spite of the injuries the tools remain intact—it's just a question of how well they'll play at the highest level of competition.
Few players have combined the speed, power and positional scarcity that the young Alfonso Soriano did; if nothing else, you'll remember him forever for that league you won (or lost) because of how incredible his fantasy production was. Soriano announced Tuesday that he will retire, so to honor the career of the only man ever traded for Brad Wilkerson, here are 15 years of Soriano's comments in the Baseball Prospectus Annual.