The Yankees don’t have many free agent targets this offseason, but a few surprises are sure to get people interested. Japanese pitching and hitting sensation Shohei Ohtani is expected to be posted in the coming weeks, and another international player is on the market in 17-year-old shortstop Kevin Maitan. The Yankees have the chance to add a young elite talent for the future, and they need to go all-in.
The Atlanta Braves have been hit with massive penalties following the revelation that general manager John Coppolella fudged the numbers on the bonuses the team gave out to their 2016 international free agent class. Not only has Coppolella been banned from baseball for life, but the organization has been forced to forfeit the 13 international prospects they signed, making them all free agents.
When the Braves signed Kevin Maitan out of Venezuela, he was the top prospect on the international scene. Before the start of the 2017 season, he was already considered a top-100 prospect in baseball with MLB.com ranking him no. 32 overall. Despite his age, Maitan went right into rookie ball and hit .241/.290/.340 with two homers in 176 plate appearances between the Gulf Coast and advanced rookie. His strikeout to walk ratio needs a lot of work, but at 17, it was just good to see he wasn’t totally outmatched.
Now that talent is suddenly on the free agent market, and the Yankees have the money to sign him. As an international free agent, Maitan is subject to international bonus pool money, so things could get tricky here. The Yankees are one of the few teams with a bonus pool in excess of $3 million, allowing them the upper hand in signing new talent. The problem is that Maitan is available in the same offseason that Ohtani is likely to be posted.
Obviously if the Yankees have to decided between the immediate talent of Ohtani and the future prospects of Maitan, there’s really no question. Plus most teams have already allocated their money to the prospects they will sign once this year’s signing period begins. However, the interesting wrinkle in all this is the fact that teams will be able to sign the likes of Maitan with either their bonus pool for the 2017-2018 signing period or the 2018-2019 signing period.
This means that if the Yankees have already allocated their money to other players, they can still sign Maitan against next year’s pool of money. It also means the Yankees could conceivably get both Ohtani and Maitan at the same time. With 13 new players available to sign, the plans of all 30 teams have conceivably been changed.
It’s easy to say that another shortstop is the last thing this organization needs, but it’s not always that easy. The organization has Didi Gregorius and Gleyber Torres, but Maitan is only 17 years old, so there is plenty of time for the depth chart to change by the time he’s even ready to sniff the majors. This is a perfect opportunity to add some incredible talent and give the farm system even more acclaim than ever before.