Yesterday marked the official beginning of the international free agent signing period, the largely unregulated Wild West of talent acquisition. Because the players are so young (usually 16) and scouts don’t always get to see them in game action, there is a lot of uncertainty about who the top talents are. Ben Badler of Baseball America posted a top 40 list here (of expected bonuses, not necessarily in order of talent), which gives of some idea of the big names out there.
Several teams made a big splash immediately, most notably the Texas Rangers. Texas came out firing, spending over $8 million on two prospects, including a record $5 million to slugging Domincan outfielder Nomar Mazara (#10 on Badler’s list) and over $3 million to another outfielder, Ronald Guzman (#2). The Mariners have also been aggressive in the early going, as they have been linked to outfielder Jose Leal for a $2 millionish bonus and RHP Victor Sanchez (#3) for a presumably large bonus as well. Seattle and Texas are two teams with established track records of success in Latin America, and the fact that they have been this aggressive thus far is certainly worthy of note.
The Yankees have been linked to a number of players on Badler’s list, but thus far, have only announced one signing, Dominican 3rd baseman Miguel Andujar (#20), who reportedly got a $750,000 bonus (video here). There aren’t extensive reports on Andujar so far, but he seems to be a solid all-around prospect with good present hitting ability and power potential, and the range and arm to stick at 3rd base. Interestingly, he worked with the same trainer as Gary Sanchez and 2010 Yankee signing Christopher Tamarez, so maybe there is a relationship there.
The Yankees have also been linked to shortstop Luis Reynoso (#13) , outfielder Manuel Marcos (#16), shortstop Yairo Munoz (#37), and RHP Roberto Osuna (#4), nephew of former Yankee (briefly) Antonio Osuna. Of the 3, Osuna would be the big prize, likely commanding a multimillion dollar bonus, while I imagine the other two would get bonuses similar to Andujar (mid-high six figures). The Yankees in recent years have been big spenders in the region, often spreading their wealth around a number of signings rather than dropping multi-millions on a single prospect (though as Gary Sanchez and Jesus Montero have demonstrated, they will drop the big bucks on the right guy).
The international signing period has extended in recent years, as age investigations have become an important part of ensuring that players are able to get a visa to enter the United States. As such, it is too early to panic that the Yankees haven’t made a big splash. Signing will likely be continued to announced over the next few weeks (and months even). But rest assured, when all’s said and done, the Yankees will likely have a nice haul of high-ceiling youngsters to add to the farm system. I’d love to see them get Osuna and some other toolsy position players, but ultimately, there’ so little information out there that there’s not much else to do other than trust the Yankees’ scouting staff.
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