2014-15 International Signings Rumors

Astros To Sign Ronny Rafael

The Astros have agreed to sign Dominican outfielder Ronny Rafael to a contract with a $1.5MM bonus, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter link).  The 20-year-old ranked 20th on MLB.com’s list of top 30 international prospects, while he checked in at 25th on Baseball America’s top-30 list.

A 6’0″, 177-pound product of Santo Domingo, the MLB.com scouting report notes that “some scouts believe Rafael is the perfect mix of power, speed and football-type athleticism” with plus speed and aggressive base-running, the ability to play any of the three outfield positions and good raw power.  BA’s scouting report is a little more pessimistic, calling Rafael a “strength-based tools guy who’s still learning feel for the game,” and “a free swinger whose pitch recognition needs work, so his offensive profile projects to be power over OBP.”

Rafael is the third international prospect to sign a seven-figure deal with the Astros, following their $1MM contracts with Franklin Perez and Miguel Sierra.  Houston has room to be aggressive since they have the highest international bonus pool of any team in MLB.


Royals Sign Ricky Aracena

Here are the day’s most notable international prospect signings from the (rankings via MLB.com and Baseball America):

  • The Royals have signed Dominican shortstop Ricky Aracena, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). Aracena, who ranked 24th on Sanchez’s Top 30 list and 17th per Baseball America’s Ben Badler, will receive a bonus of $850K, Sanchez says. Sanchez notes that Aracena is a switch-hitter with equal bat speed and home run power from each side of the plate, and he has the tools to stick at shortstop. Sanchez likens him to Rafael Furcal in terms of body type, while Badler (subscription required) compares him to a larger version of Jose Altuve. Scouts “marvel” at how polished and instinctive Aracena is at such a young age, according to Badler.

Yankees To Sign Eight Top International Prospects

10:02pm: MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets that Arias received an $800K bonus, and Flames’ bonus is $1MM. Park’s bonus is $1.1MM, he adds in a second tweet.

7:19pm: Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel reports that the Yankees have signed Venezuelan outfielder Jonathan Amundary for a rumored $1.5MM bonus and Dominican outfielder Antonio Arias for a rumored $1MM (Twitter links).

Amundary is described by Badler as a toolsy project that has a crudeness about many aspects of his game but comes with plenty of upside. He ranked seventh on MLB.com’s list and 22nd on BA’s. Arias ranked ninth on MLB.com’s list and 28th on BA’s. Badler writes that Arias, like Amundary, is all about projection. Sanchez likens him to a Cameron Maybin style player and praises his quick hands, good balance and aggressiveness at the dish.

5:50pm: Badler now reports that the Yankees have inked Korean shortstop Hyo-Jun Park — his No. 18 prospect and No. 13 on MLB.com’s list. Park is a bit older than most prospects, as he is an 18-year-old high school senior out of Korea. Scouts feel he can stick at shortstop with plus speed and athleticism. Sanchez notes that while his power is his weakest tool, some believe he could hit 10+ homers once he adds some strength.

5:36pm: Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the Yankees have added to their impressive haul on this year’s international market by signing his No. 2 ranked prospect — Dominican outfielder Juan De Leon. The 16-year-old De Leon ranked No. 5 on the Top 30 list of MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Badler notes (subscription required) that he has the potential for plus power due thanks to possessing the best bat speed in this year’s class. De Leon has a strong arm and average speed, and scouts are split on whether he can remain in center field or will have to slide over to right, per scouting reports from Badler and Sanchez.

Also from Badler, the Yankees have signed Venezuelan catcher Miguel Flames, who ranked 16th on BA’s Top 30 and 25th on MLB.com’s list. The former third baseman draws praise for raw power, a strong throwing arm and good plate discipline, but he needs more work behind the plate and may have to move to first in some scouts’ opinions, per Sanchez.

3:05pm: Shortstop Dermis Garcia has agreed to a $3.2MM bonus with the Yankees, reports Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com (via Twitter). Garcia landed at the very top of MLB.com‘s list of the top prospects, while checking in at ninth on that of Baseball America, which said the key question is whether he can transition his power into game action. Kiley McDaniel first connected the two sides back in February, with Robert Murray tweeting last month that the two were circling in on an “approximate” $3.2MM bonus that proved to be the final amount.

2:20pm: The Yankees have also agreed to a $1.35MM bonus with Wilkerman Garcia, tweets Sanchez. Garcia, a shortstop, appeared at seventh on Baseball America’s list of the top international prospects and 14th on that of MLB.com.

12:38pm: The Yankees have agreed to a $2.25MM bonus with international prospect Nelson Gomez, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). Gomez is an infielder out of the Dominican Republic. Murray also approximated a $2.25MM bonus for Gomez last month (Twitter link).

Prospect analysts agree that Gomez is one of the best players available, with MLB.com ranking him second overall and Baseball America putting him at sixth. He has a large frame and offers power at the plate and with his arm. Those physical tools could play anywhere on the diamond, but of course his value depends in part upon his position. Though MLB.com says there is some chance he could stick at short, BA sees him as a third baseman who could have to shift over to first or into the outfield.

The Yankees have been widely expected to blow past their $2,193,100 bonus allocation, and Gomez’s reported bonus accounts for more than that on its own. The Yankees also inked Diego Castillo for a $750K bonus earlier today.



Mets Notes: Niese, Conforto, Syndergaard, Collins

The Mets have yet to determine whether they’re buyers or sellers at this year’s trade deadline, GM Sandy Alderson tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The next 10 to 12 days will be vital in making that assessment, Alderson said, but he made it clear that regardless of the way they go, the team isn’t likely to deal left-hander Jon Niese. Given the fact that the Mets can control Niese, who has a 2.88 ERA in 103 innings, through 2018, that stance isn’t entirely surprising. Niese is guaranteed $16.5MM through the 2016 season, and his contract contains a $10MM club option for 2017 and an $11MM club option for 2018. That would be tremendously difficult to part with, though it would also be highly appealing to other clubs and carry a great deal of trade value.

More from Heyman and other reporters on the Mets…

  • From that same piece, Alderson notes that Daniel Murphy‘s name has come up “periodically” in trade talks. Heyman suggests that Alderson’s statement includes the mention of a Murphy in trade that would net Jonathan Villar and others, which appeared in the recent Astros’ data leak. Heyman adds that Alderson didn’t deny anything that was mentioned in those notes.
  • In a second piece, Heyman reports that the Mets’ deal with top pick Michael Conforto still isn’t quite done. Alderson tells Heyman that the two sides are still working out three or four mostly non-financial clauses. The two sides remain in agreement on a $2.97MM signing bonus.
  • While he was once thought to be on the Matt Harvey/Zack Wheeler summer promotion track, top prospect Noah Syndergaard now might not even be called up in 2014 at all, manager Terry Collins told reporters yesterday (including Mike Puma of the New York Post). One club source told Puma that team officials have struggled to get a read on Syndergaard, and some feel he would benefit from a full year at Triple-A. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News wrote earlier today that a club official recently told him Syndergaard is “not even on our radar” at this point.
  • Martino also tweets that Alderson recently lamented the team’s run differential (a point he touched on with Heyman as well) but firmly stated that he doesn’t feel Collins is the cause for that issue.
  • The Mets announced the signings of 11 international free agents today, and MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo runs down the list, noting that Venezuelan shortstops Yoel Romero and Edgardo Fermin received respective bonuses of $300K and $250K. None of the 11 signed by the Mets ranked among the Top 30 lists compiled by MLB.com and Baseball America.

Mariners To Sign Brayan Hernandez

The Mariners have agreed to terms with top international prospect Brayan Hernandez, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. Hernandez, a 16-year-old outfielder from Venezuela, will receive a $1.85MM bonus, per Sanchez.

A switch-hitter, Hernandez ranked No. 8 on MLB.com’s list of top international amateurs and third on Baseball America’s version of the same list. Sanchez, BA’s Ben Badler and Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel have all connected the Mariners to Hernandez in the past, with McDaniel making the link all the way back in February.

Badler called Hernandez one of the most well-rounded players and best athletes in this year’s class. He has the potential to hit 15 to 20 homers with slightly above-average speed but a below-average throwing arm, per Badler. Sanchez calls him a contact hitter with a balanced setup that could improve quickly upon getting into regular games, due to a natural swing and strong hand-eye coordination.


NL International Signings: Cuadrado, Gonzalez, Rosario

Here are the day’s most notable international prospect signings from the National League (rankings via MLB.com and Baseball America):

  • The Dodgers have signed Venezuelan corner outfielder Romer Cuadrado and given him a $750K signing bonus, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. Cuardado didn’t crack either Top 30 list, though Badler did note in a report (subscription required) that he has an “extra-large frame” for a 16-year-old (6’4″, 195 pounds) with room to add size. Badler noted that Cuardado has projectable raw power from the right side.
  • Shortstops Pedro Gonzalez ($1.3MM) and Yeremy Rosario ($800K) have agreed to terms with the Rockies, according to Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com (via Twitter) and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (Twitter link), respectively. Gonzalez was rated the 12th-best prospect available by both Baseball America and MLB.com. Rosario, meanwhile, landed at 22nd on the MLB.com list, with opinions varying on whether he is a top young player or instead lacks the ability to stick up the middle.
  • Shortstop Kenny Hernandez has signed with the Mets for $1MM, Sanchez reports on Twitter. Hernandez was the 27th-rated prospect by MLB.com but rose all the way to 13th on the Baseball America board.
  • The Giants have inked outfielder Sandro Fabian for $500K, reports Sanchez (via Twitter). Fabian hails from the Dominican Republic and can generate hard contact but needs to work on his plate discipline and will likely need to move from center to left field, according to Badler (subscription required).
  • The Phillies have signed shortstop Arquimedes Gamboa to a $900K bonus, reports Sanchez (via Twitter). The switch-hitting Venezuelan checked in at eighth on BA’s list and 15th on that of MLB.com. His value appears to be in his legs and defensive ability, though Gamboa is said to be a capable contact hitter. Philadelphia has also inked fellow Venezuelan shortstop Daniel Brito, who was rated 29th overall by BA, according to a report from Badler. Brito receives a healthy $650K bonus, according to Badler.
  • The Padres have agreed to terms with catcher Ricardo Rodriguez, who came in at the very bottom of MLB.com’s top-30 prospect list, tweets Sanchez. San Diego also landed a $500K contract with shortstop Elvis Sabala, per another Sanchez tweet.
  • Outfielder Christian Capellan has agreed to a $500K deal with the Marlins, tweets Sanchez. The club has also inked Venezuelan outfielder Anderson Castro for $650K, according to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (via Twitter). Miami is expected to land as many as twelve players today while wielding a bonus that is triple the club’s previous levels, tweets Frisaro. The Fish have just over $4.6MM in available pool space, second-most in the league.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Rays To Sign Adrian Rondon, Jesus Sanchez

2:23pm: Tampa has also reached agreement with outfielder Jesus Sanchez on a $400K bonus, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. Sanchez was rated the 27th-best prospect by Baseball America entering the signing period.

11:48am: The Rays have agreed to sign international shortstop prospect Adrian Rondon, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (via Twitter). He will earn a $3.3MM bonus, per Deportes’ Dionisio Soldevila (via Twitter), though he cannot technicaly sign until July 7 because he has yet to turn 16.

Rondon occupies the top slot in Baseball America‘s ranking of available prospects and comes in at third in the view of MLB.com. BA cites his outstanding feel for the game and athletic presence in the middle of the diamond, where he could stick. He is also one of, if not the most advanced hitters available. He makes good, hard contact and has some power projection in his swing and body.

The Rays entered the signing period with only $1,998,100 in pool money at the club’s disposal, well shy of the reported bonus for Rondon. The difference of over $1.3MM would handily exceed the 15% bar, above which the club must both pay a 100% overage tax and give up the ability to sign international prospects for bonuses of over $300K for the next two signing periods.


Red Sox To Sign Chris Acosta, Anderson Espinoza

2:30pm: Espinoza will receive a $200K scholarship in addition to his bonus, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (via Twitter).

2:00pm: Boston has agreed to sign top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza to a $1.8MM bonus, tweets Ben Badler of Baseball America. Espinoza was rated the best available arm by both BA and MLB.com. As expected, the Red Sox will be hit with the maximum penalty.

11:00am: The Red Sox have agreed to a $1.5MM deal with international prospect Chris Acosta, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports on Twitter. Acosta is a right-hander out of the Dominican Republic.

Baseball America rates him the 11th-best available prospect, while MLB.com had him sitting just one spot outside of the top five. Acosta is said to be advanced for his young age, with room to grow into his frame and increase his velocity. He is already sitting in the upper 80s to low 90s, with a good change and promising curve also in his arsenal.

Entering the signing period, Boston was tied to both Acosta and fellow top righty Anderson Espinoza. With just a shade over $1.88MM available in pool money, Boston is expected to incur the maximum penalties for blowing its budget by at least 15%. Should that occur, the club would pay a 100% tax and receive a two-year ban on July 2 signing bonuses of greater than $300K.


AL International Signings: White Sox, Castillo, Martinez

July 2 is upon us; here are the day’s notable international prospect signings from the American League (rankings via MLB.com and Baseball America):

  • The White Sox have made several big-dollar signings: shortstop Ricardo Mota has signed for $750K, second baseman Felix Mercedes will receive a $950K bonus, and catcher Jhoandro Alfaro (brother of Rangers’ prospect Jorge) will get $750K, according to Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com (links to Twitter). Earlier, we learned that shortstop Amado Nunez has agreed to a $900K bonus with Chicago, per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets. The club has announced all four signings, per Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). Nunez is perhaps the highest-rated of the foursome, with MLB.com and BA both rating him the 26th-best available prospect. Though he lacks any eye-popping tools and may ultimately need to move off of shortstop, BA says that his broad-based talents tend to show up in game action.
  • The Yankees have agreed to a $750K bonus with shortstop Diego Castillo, tweets MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. The highly-rated Venezuelan prospect (16th by MLB.com, 24th by BA) is small in stature but shows promising skill up the middle and a nice line-drive swing at the plate.
  • Julio Martinez has signed with the Tigers for $600K, reports Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com (via Twitter). Martinez, an outfielder from the Dominican Republic, placed 19th on MLB.com’s ranking, owing largely to his hit and power tools.
  • The Astros have agreed to sign righty Franklin Perez and shortstop Miguel Sierra for $1MM each, reports Sanchez (via Twitter). MLB.com rated them the 21st and 23rd best available prospects, respectively, while Baseball America had them at 15th and 19th on its list. Perez is said to have a good fastball and advanced approach on the mound, while Sierra profiles as a solid all-around player with a line-drive stroke and the ability to stay at short.
  • The Twins have reached agreement on a $800K bonus with righty Huascar Ynoa, tweets Sanchez. The younger brother of record-holding international signee Michael Ynoa, the Dominican landed at 17th among available prospects on the MLB.com list and 14th in the eyes of Baseball America, which credits him with outstanding stuff but streaky control.

Brewers To Sign Gilbert Lara

The Brewers have agreed to sign international prospect Gilbert Lara, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (via Twitter). Lara will receive a $3.2MM bonus, according to colleague Dionisio Soldevila (via Twitter).

Milwaukee has long been expected to land Lara, a Dominican shortstop who is expected to move to third base but could ultimately shift across the diamond or into the corner outfield. He is big and strong, and has shown good power in game action. MLB.com liked him as the fourth-best available prospect, with Baseball America slotting him at number five.

That bonus alone would exceed the Brewer’s available international money of $2,611,800 by 22.5%. If that holds, Milwaukee would not only pay a 100% tax on the overage, but would sacrifice the right to sign any player for more than $300K in the next two signing periods. On the other hand, the club could always acquire additional slots (up to 50% of its original total pool) to offset the difference.