The Yankees have lost their best player in Robinson Cano, they're targeting the best pitcher on the market in Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, and have recently released a total of 33 minor league players from their system in the last month, most of whom were international signings from years passed. Now the Yankees are reportedly looking to spend big on the 2014 international amateur class.
Kiley McDaniel of scoutingbaseball.com is reporting that a source says the Yankees aim to spend $12-15 million in bonus money on international players this year. A spending spree to that degree would accrue $10-12 million in penalties, according to the new CBA restrictions on international bonus pool money. If that is the case, they would outspend the 2011 Texas Rangers, who spent $15 million just before restrictions were put into place.
According to McDaniel, who believes this plan was hatched during the meetings that Hal Steinbrenner had with Yankee development personnel back in August about the lackluster farm system:
MLB hasn't notified clubs of their 2014 international spending pools yet, but the Yankees are expected to have a pool amount between $2.0 million and $2.5 million. They would be taxed 100% on any dollar they spend over 10% above that amount and the maximum penalty (for going over 15% above the pool amount) is not being allowed to sign a player for above a $300,000 bonus for the next two years. The maximum bonus penalty this year is harsher than the previous two seasons, when it was a one-year bonus limit of $250,000.
While the previous three clubs just went a few million over their pool, essentially lumping 2-3 years of signings into one year, the Yankees would be spending more in bonuses in the summer of 2014 than almost any club will spend in the next five years, along with almost as much in penalties.
This would represent a huge step forward in the way the Yankees value international players. They are usually not afraid to spend big on the right amateur players, especially in Latin America (Gary Sanchez, Jesus Montero, Luis Torrens – all catchers), but planning to go in hard for the top talent available has never seemed to be the priority for them. This must mean one of two things: they have redefined their priorities when it comes to amateur talent or they believe an international draft is coming. If that's the case, spending big now before it's too late is the right move to make. MLB was close to installing a draft last offseason, but it could still happen. It will also help to make up for the organization's lack of a first-round draft pick going into the 2014 MLB Draft.
Spending big on amateur international free agents is definitely a risk, probably an even bigger risk than the MLB Draft. The Yankees aren't big on risk taking, but if they're willing to spend the money in 2014, it could be only a matter of time before they're ready to chase the next Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig. Strategies have to start somewhere, and this could be the beginning of a smarter organization, one that gets on board with conventional thinking. Or this could be a one time thing as they try to make up for past mistakes. We have to see how it all plays out.
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