MLB's Early Winners and Losers of 2014 International Free Agency
The first day of the 2014-15 international signing period officially is in the books.
While most teams played by the rules and stayed within their allotted bonus pools, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox set a new precedent by opting to ignore spending limitations (at the cost of a future penalty) in order to sign many of the top-ranked prospects in this year’s class.
Based on the players they landed Wednesday, it’s hard to criticize either team for having the means to exploit a loophole in the current collective bargaining agreement. At the same time, there also were plenty of teams that landed promising young players without exceeding their bonus pools.
While the Yankees and Red Sox both enjoyed a rewarding start to the current international signing period, there were several teams that made lackluster signings Wednesday as others were kept off the board completely.
That said, it simply isn’t fair for me to declare teams as either “winners” or “losers” one day into the signing period; remember, we’re talking about 15- and 16-year-old kids who have minimal experience and will need numerous seasons to develop in the minor leagues, if they’re even so lucky to reach a stateside level. However, that doesn’t mean teams’ international strategies aren’t worth analyzing.
Here are the early “winners” and “losers” of the 2014-15 international signing period.
Winners: New York Yankees
Bonus Pool: $2,193,100
|Dermis Garcia||SS/3B||Dominican Republic||$3.2M|
|Nelson Gomez||3B||Dominican Republic||$2.25M|
|Hyo-Joon Park||SS||South Korea||N/A|
|Juan De Leon||OF||Dominican Republic||N/A|
The New York Yankees were widely expected to exceed their $2,193,100 bonus pool during this year’s international signing period, with Kiley McDaniel of Scouting Baseball suggesting back in February that the team could spend upward of $15 million at the cost of a stiff penalty. Well, we’re only one day into the signing period and the team’s singing bonuses quickly are adding up.
Specifically, the Yankees shelled out big bucks Wednesday to land several of the top players in this year’s class.
The organization gave a $3.2 million bonus to Dominican shortstop Dermis Garcia, whom I profiled at Prospect Pipeline the other day. The Yankees also signed Dominican third baseman Nelson Gomez for $2.25 million, who, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America (subscription required), “generates some of the best raw power in the class from his strong 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame.”
In terms of their other seven-figure signings, the Yankees landed Venezuelan outfielders Jonathan Amundaray and Antonio Arias for $1.5 million and $1 million respectively, while also grabbing shortstop Wilkerman Garcia for $1.35 million.
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com praised Garcia’s offensive potential, stating that he “has a good feel for hitting and should be able to hit for average,” but also noted that “some scouts believe he is better suited for second base or even third base because of his versatility and arm strength.”
On top of their high-profile signings, the Yankees also handed out numerous six-figure bonuses Wednesday, giving $750,000 to Venezuelan shortstop Diego Castillo, $300,000 to Dominican outfielder Frederick Cuevas and $200,000 to Venezuelan right-hander Servando Hernandez.
Meanwhile, bonus information hasn’t been made available for the team’s three other signings on Wednesday: Venezuelan catcher Miguel Flames, Dominican outfielder Juan De Leon and 18-year-old Taiwanese shortstop Hyo-Joon Park.
The Yankees already have spent $10.55 million based on confirmed signings, per Badler, so it’s reasonable to expect the organization to spend close to $15 million as McDaniel predicted.
However, it’s hard to fault the club for having the financial resources necessary to exploit the current international spending system. After all, there’s no denying that New York has already landed the finest collection of talent among all teams—and we’re not even 24 hours into the signing period.
Losers: Kansas City Royals
Bonus Pool: $2,136,800
The Kansas City Royals were one of only three teams (Baltimore and Oakland being the others) not to sign a player on Wednesday, which is somewhat surprising given their $2,136,800 bonus pool and success with international prospects in recent years. But it's certainly not a knock on their strategy.
Prior to the start of the current spending period, McDaniel linked the Royals to Dominican shortstop Ricky Aracena, suggesting that the team could give him around $1.2 million. Well, Aracena is still in play after Wednesday, which means the Royals still are the favorites to land him.
Winners: Chicago White Sox
Bonus Pool: $4,273,000
|Felix Mercedes||IF||Dominican Republic||$950K|
|Amado Nunez||SS||Dominican Republic||$900K|
|Ricardo Mota||SS||Dominican Republic||$750K|
With the third-highest bonus pool among all teams ($4,273,000), the Chicago White Sox quietly threw around some money on Wednesday en route to landing four promising position prospects.
The organization gave a $950,000 bonus to Dominican infielder Felix Mercedes, who has “impressed some scouts with his righthanded power and arm strength,” per Badler. It also shelled out $900,000 to sign Dominican shortstop Amado Nunez, who stands out for his “medium-frame build, his bat speed and his power potential,” per Sanchez.
The White Sox also signed a pair of prospects for $750,000 in Columbian catcher Jhoandro Alfaro, the younger brother of Rangers catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, and Dominican shortstop Ricardo Mota. More importantly, the team has already announced the signings of all four players, per Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune.
Having already spent $3.35 million of their pool money, the White Sox could still potentially squeeze in another player for $750,000 or possibly several players in the $100,000 to $250,000 range without surpassing their spending limit.
Either way, the South Siders grabbed an impressive haul on Wednesday, as they added a slew of potential high-end talents to a farm system already on the rise.
Losers: Miami Marlins
Bonus Pool: $4,622,400
|Christian Capellan||OF||Dominican Republic||$500K|
It was surprising that the Marlins didn’t make a bigger splash to begin this year’s international spending period, especially considering they have the second-highest bonus pool ($4,622,400) among all teams. However, that’s not to say they were kept off the board.
The Marlins signed three mid-range prospects on Wednesday, a group highlighted by Venezuelan shortstop Andres Villalobos ($350K), and the team also is said to have a deal in place with Dominican outfielder Christian Capellan for $500K, according to Sanchez.
It’s doubtful Miami’s other signings, Panamanian right-hander Alberto Guerrero and Venezuelan outfielder Anderson Castro, will cost as much as Capellan—probably not even as much as Villalobos—so expect the organization to sign players of similar value with its remaining bonus pool.
Winners: Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox: $1,881,700
|Christopher Acosta||RHP||Dominican Republic||$1.5M|
|Elwin Tejada||SS||Dominican Republic||$300K|
Like their rivals in the American League East, the Boston Red Sox already have spent more than their allotted bonus pool ($1,881,700), though that was expected based on a previous report by Badler.
The Red Sox came back later in the day to sign another high-profile arm, as they landed Venezuelan right-hander Anderson Espinoza with a $2 million bonus. Badler contends that the 16-year-old is the best pitcher in this year’s class, also noting “at 6 feet, 175 pounds, he has a loose delivery, a fastball up to 94 mph with advanced secondary stuff and pitchability.”
Lastly, the Red Sox capped their first day of the 2014-15 international signing period by grabbing Dominican shortstop Elwin Tejada for $300,000, according to the Dominican Prospect League.
With their trio of signings Wednesday, the Red Sox now have spent $3.8 million—nearly $2 million more than their bonus pool. However, while they’ll incur a penalty during next year’s signing period, the fact that they landed two of the premier arms in this year’s class makes it justifiable.
Losers: Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs: $3,962,700
Despite having the fourth-highest bonus pool ($3,962,700) among all 30 teams, the first day of the 2014-15 international signing period was a quiet one for the Chicago Cubs.
Last year, the organization willingly exceeded its bonus pool by more than 15 percent, singing such high-profile prospects as Dominican outfielder Eloy Jimenez ($2.8M), Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres ($1.7M) and Taiwanese right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng ($1.625M).
As a result of overspending, the Cubs incurred a penalty for the 2014-15 signing period and aren't allowed to spend more than $250K on a single player.
However, with a bonus pool just south of $4 million, the Cubs still should be able to land a wide range of international talent in the current signing period, even if that means singing a bunch of players for $100K, as suggested by Badler.
My guess is that the Cubs will let this year’s big spenders have at it before re-evaluating the talent field and signing some of the best remaining prospects.