The Yankees have done a good job solidifying their talent pool over the last few months. Several trades have brought in players who have bolstered the team’s farm system. Even though they are still restricted from signing any international players for more than $300,000 after their 2014 spending spree, Cuban pitcher Hector Mendoza could be a player who is available to them this offseason.
International spending restrictions typically extend to those who are under 23 years old and do not have at least five seasons of foreign professional league experience. However, Mendoza spent four years with Serie Nacional in Cuba and parts of the last two seasons with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan to make him eligible for unrestricted free agency once he turns 23 in March. Could this make him a target in 2017?
In recent years, he has worked as a reliever, serving as the closer for La Isla de la Juventud. Despite his usage, Mendoza is also said to have the repertoire and build needed to develop as a starter with an MLB club. The right-handed pitcher is Baseball America’s No. 12 prospect in Cuba and is listed at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds. He has a 90-94 mph fastball with solid strike-throwing ability and fastball command for his age. He also has a solid-average 76-80 mph curveball with sharp break, a promising changeup, and a slider that he is still working into his arsenal.
Despite his talent, the Yankees have made a habit of neglecting the Cuban market. While Mendoza would be eligible for a full MLB deal this offseason, his present talent level likely puts him at High-A right now. Teams like the Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Angels, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Giants, Rays and Royals, who are also under restrictions at the moment, would be eligible to sign Mendoza to any kind of deal as well. It’s hard to believe they will compete with any of them.
While the Yankees would be able to sign a high-priced international player for the first time in years, it’s highly unlikely they take interest in such a player. They have already allowed Yulieski Gourriel to sign elsewhere and were shut out of the Lourdes Gourriel sweepstakes because of their ineligibility. Hal Steinbrenner has shown an unwillingness to spend on talent this offseason, and a player with no MLB experience would hardly be at the top of the list for a multi-year contract.
The Yankees are on the verge of running out of pitchers. As it has been well documented, the team will have no starting pitchers under contract after the 2017 season if Masahiro Tanaka opts out of his contract. While there are several promising starting pitchers in the organization and players available on the free agent market, the Yankees could use all the help they can get. While it is highly unlikely that they go after a Cuban free agent after all this time, it wouldn’t be too bad of an idea to spend money on a player who could provide them with some extra depth.