Yankees' International Haul Sits At Eight

Organization considers this a "special year" for talent in Latin America





See also: Yankees, Nationals busy on first day of international signing period

Yankees international scouting director Lin Garrett said the Yankees weren't trying to send a message to anybody.

Instead, the Yankees just tried to improve their farm system, which has produced some quality of late (Chien-Ming Wang, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera are all contributing in New York), but not as much quantity as it did in the 1990s.

The Yanks went for quality and quantity when the July 2 international signing date arrived. Not only have the Yankees signed catcher Jesus Montero for a reported $2 million bonus (Garrett declined to comment on signing terms), but they have signed eight players total, three from Venezuela and five from the Dominican Republic. And Garrett said he hopes the organization is not done yet, as general manager Brian Cashman authorized the international scouting department to be aggressive this summer.

"I would say we went to Brian early and said we thought this was a special year, and we needed to be heavily involved," Garrett said Wednesday. "It's the quantity of the quality that is so impressive. It's like three years wrapped into one."

Montero is the prize catch. Garrett termed him a "special case," explaining why the organization was willing to sign on for a seven-figure bonus for a 16-year-old catcher with a 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame some have termed as mature. Also, the Yankees have little catching depth in the farm system, a problem ever since they traded Dioner Navarro, now with the Devil Rays, to the Diamondbacks in the Randy Johnson deal in January 2005.

While two scouts from National League organizations said they believed Montero's future lies elsewhere on the diamond, Garrett said the Yankees have confidence he can remain a catcher as he moves up the ladder. And Garrett enjoyed hearing one of the two scouts had touted Montero's raw power as pegging the 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

"That's a fact," Garrett said of Montero's power. "His signing is the result of two years of evaluating this player. We've seen him in drills, in workouts, in games, in Venezuela, in the Dominican, in Tampa, with in-home visits . . . There has been a thorough evaluation of his physical attributes but also of his makeup.

"I'm pretty well convinced he can catch. His makeup and work ethic will allow him to (maintain his body). He has the intelligence and the aptitude for the position, and overall, the bat will play."

One of the NL scouting directors said of Montero, "He was hitting home runs to center field in Valencia, which is pretty tough to do. The question is where does he play? The body is pretty maxed out. He looks like Travis Hafner at age 16."

The Yankees also signed Venezuelan shortstop Jose Pirela for a reported $300,000. Pirela has good hands and an above-average arm, but his speed might be his best tool. The third Venezuelan the organization signed is catcher Francisco Arcia.

New York also nabbed five Dominicans: outfielders Carlos Martinez Urena (who reportedly signed for $350,000) and Arielky LaPay, shortstops Jimy Paredes and Jose Toussen and righthander Hairo Heredia. Garrett said Heredia had "now stuff," which prompted the Yankees to make him the only pitcher they have signed so far. He also characterized Toussen and Urena as players with present offensive skills and future power potential.

"You try to sign what you can out of the elite group of players," Garrett said. "But you also need quantity when you talk about 16-year-olds. No one's that good of an evaluator."