Yankees, Red Sox Impact International Scene Again





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It’s been a working week since the beginning of the international signing period, and several clubs have made splashes.

The Red Sox signed eight players, including third baseman Michael Almanzar. No bonuses were included with any of the eight players Boston signed, though several sources indicated Almanzar, the son of former big league pitcher Carlos Almanzar, inked a deal worth $1.5 million.

Including Almanzar, seven players signed 2008 deals according to a press release issued by the club. The lone exception was Taiwanese outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin, who signed for this season and has been playing in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League for the last two weeks. In 40 at-bats, the speedy 18-year-old center fielder is hitting .225/.283/.350 with a homer and a pair of doubles.

Boston also signed Australian righthander Justin Erasmus (which was the club Erasmus has been linked to since February), Dominican righthander Roman Mendez, Dominican shortstop Rafael Espinosa, Venezuelan outfielder Javier Gutierrez, Venezuelan shortstop Joantoni Garcia, and Venezuelan catcher Jesus Rojas.

The Red Sox’ rival in the Bronx signed more players so far, with five of them considered among the elite of this year’s market. And that begins with Dominican outfielder Kelvin DeLeon, who was tagged as the top outfielder available.

“I wouldn’t say he’s at all like Melky Cabrera, however,” Yankees senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “Body-wise, he’s more like Ruben Rivera. This guy’s got all kinds of potential. He’s an above-average to plus runner and he could be a big power guy.

“He’s probably a right fielder with a plus-plus arm, but he could be an average to slightly above-average center fielder also. We’ll play him in different spots out there, but he’s probably going to be limited to right just to allow the bat to play.”

Newman would not comment on DeLeon’s signing bonus, but several sources indicated it was well below the $1.6 to $1.8 million we reported last weekend. One source from a National League club verified it was in the $1.1 to $1.2 million range.

The Yankees also signed Dominican righthander Andogious Vizcaino, Dominican third baseman Elio De La Rosa, and Dominican outfielders Henry Pena and Edwardo Sosa--all considered to be top talents in the country.

Vizcaino has a projectable body with a plus fastball that is already in the low 90s and repeats his delivery well. Newman called Vizcaino the top pitcher in the Dominican, according to the Yanks’ international scouting department.

Pena is a lefthanded-hitting outfielder that will play a corner spot. “We like his bat a lot,” Newman said. “He’s a left-left guy who throws very well and has good instincts. He uses the whole field and has a smooth, advanced swing.”

Sosa is more of a slasher type center fielder in the mold of a young Juan Pierre or Willy Taveras--with plus speed and outstanding range.

“Defintely a plus run guy,” Newman said. “We like the bat. He’s a guy who’s going to hit for a high average, be a threat on the bases and we think there’s some power in there to come. But his strengths are plus speed, plus quickness in the outfield.”

The Mets also made a splash on the international market as expected, signing Venezuelan shortstop Wilmer Flores, Venezuelan lefthander Martin Perez ($560,000), Venezuelan catcher Kelvin Mostcantero ($400,000), and Dominican third baseman Jeffrey Marte ($550,000) and two-way player Adrian Polanco ($400,000).

Seattle has been linked to elusive Venezuelan righthander Carlos Flores, and reportedly signed Venezuelan shortstop Gabriel Noriega for $800,000.

The Braves were originally in on Flores, but have already signed Colombian righthander Julio Teheran, considered by many to be the top righthanded arm in this year’s class, for $850,000.

Teheran reportedly had better offers on the table, but Braves international scouting director Johnny Almaraz made the best impression on the 16-year-old’s family.