AL East International Signing Forecasts
The 2017-18 international signing period opens on Sunday, July 2. Here’s what to expect from each team in the American League East and the players they’re linked to, with each club’s bonus pool in parentheses. Baltimore Orioles ($5.75 million)
They’re not linked to any notable prospects.
Boston Red Sox ($4.75 million)
After the Red Sox went over their international bonus pool in 2014-15 to sign Anderson Espinoza and other 16-year-old Latin American prospects (before later signing Yoan Moncada), they were limited to signings of no more than $300,000 in 2015-16. They then lost some of their most prominent 2015-16 signings—including Albert Guaimaro and Simon Muzziotti—when MLB removed them from the organization for what the commissioner’s office deemed were signings that broke league rules. The Red Sox were then banned from international signings for the entire 2016-17 signing period that concluded on June 15.
The Red Sox are back in the game in 2017 in what looks like a big year for the organization. So big, in fact, that the Red Sox will likely have to trade for additional bonus pool money. They have $4.75 million in their pool and can trade to get up to a little more than $8.3 million, and based on who they’re planning to sign, it’s probable that the Red Sox will make at least one trade on July 2 or soon thereafter for at least a couple million in pool money.
Boston’s biggest signings this year are expected to come from Venezuela, a country the Red Sox continue to scout aggressively despite its challenges. Their top signing will likely be Daniel Flores, the No. 2 international prospect and a player who is at the top of the list for some clubs. Between Flores’ talent, a Red Sox farm system that’s lighter than usual and will probably thin out before the trade deadline, Flores would immediately become one of Boston’s top prospects.
The Red Sox are also expected to sign Venezuelan shortstop Danny Diaz, the No. 7 international prospect, which would give them two of the top 10 prospects. Diaz is unlikely to spend much if any time at shortstop after he signs, but he has one of the best combinations of hitting ability and power in the class. They’re are also linked to Venezuelan shortstop Antoni Flores, No. 35 on BA’s Top 50, and seem to be higher on him relative to the industry consensus. The Red Sox are also tied to Nelfy Abreu, a switch-hitting shortstop from the Dominican Republic, and Venezuelan shortstop Denny Daza.
New York Yankees ($4.75 million)
The Yankees are reaping the rewards at the major league level from the work of international director Donny Rowland and his staff, particularly in the Dominican Republic. Gary Sanchez, signed in 2009, ranks third among catchers in fWAR. Luis Severino, signed in 2011, has developed into a frontline starter. With the Yankees calling up Miguel Andujar (signed in 2011), they have three homegrown Dominican signings on their 25-man roster, with more on the rise between righthander Domingo Acevedo, shortstop/center fielder Jorge Mateo and outfielder Estevan Florial.
After blowing up their bonus pool in 2014-15 and spending the last two signing periods in the penalty box, the Yankees looked prepared to blow up their bonus pool again this year if given the chance. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement, of course, thwarted that plan, but they should still come away with a strong haul. Venezuelan center fielder Everson Pereira, the No. 4 international prospect, is expected to sign with the Yankees. Pereira checks off a lot of boxes with his combination of athleticism, tools, hitting ability and overall instincts for the game. They’re also linked to Dominican shortstop Ronny Rojas (the No. 11 prospect), a player many clubs didn’t get to see much, but those who did felt he was one of the best hitters in the class. They’re also linked to Venezuelan shortstop Roberto Chirinos, the No. 20 prospect, and outfielder Anthony Garcia, the No. 28 prospect who is in the same academy as Rojas.
They’re also expected to sign Venezuelan shortstop Osleivis Basabe, the No. 46 prospect. However, based on the expected price tags of all the players the Yankees are linked to, they might have to trade up for additional pool space (by rule, they could increase their pool to slightly more than $8.3 million). If they don’t, there’s talk Basabe might wait to sign until 2018. There’s also some chatter that the Yankees could get involved with the two biggest wild cards of the class, Venezuelan outfielder Raimfer Salinas (No. 10) and Venezuelan catcher Antonio Cabello (No. 15), either for 2017 or 2018, but it’s unclear where either Salinas or Cabello are headed. The Yankees are also linked to Dominican shortstop Angel Rojas and Venezuelan catcher Reiner Ascanio.
Tampa Bay Rays ($5.25 million)
Between Brendan McKay and Wander Franco, the Rays could add the top college prospect and the top international prospect to their farm system in less than a month. Franco is the No. 1 international prospect, a switch-hitting Dominican shortstop with outstanding skills from both sides of the plate and game maturity well beyond his years. He has the tools, baseball IQ and hitting ability to move quickly through the farm system if a team wants to push him. Given the recent track record of players ranked at the top of BA’s international prospects lists for July 2 since 2012—Franklin Barreto, Eloy Jimenez, Adrian Rondon, Vladimir Guerrero and Kevin Maitan—getting Franco would be huge for the Rays. With Franco expected to sign for a tick under $4 million, that would eat up most of Tampa Bay’s bonus pool, though they’re also linked to Venezuelan righthander Roybel Santodomingo and should have others lined up as well.
Toronto Blue Jays ($4.75 million)
To sign Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for $3.9 million in 2015, the Blue Jays went over their bonus pool by a tick under 15 percent, putting them in the 10-15 percent pool overage window to trigger a one-year penalty of being unable to sign anyone for more than $300,000 during the most recent 2016-17 signing period. I doubt the Blue Jays regret that decision, as Vladdy Jr. has become one of the game’s elite prospects.
With the Blue Jays facing restrictions last year, they had an early, aggressive eye on the top talent in the 2017 class and looked prepared to blow through their bonus pool this year, but the CBA put hard caps on spending. They still scoured the 2017 class thoroughly and are tied to five players ranked among the Top 50 prospects, including the top pitcher, Brazilian righthander Eric Pardinho (No. 14). Teams for the most part had extremely consistent scouting reports on Pardinho, whose combination of stuff, feel for pitching and easy delivery are excellent, but differed on how much they were willing to pay for that skill set from a 16-year-old righthander who’s 5-foot-9. If there’s a team that won’t shy away from a pitcher who is 5-foot-9, it makes sense that it’s the Blue Jays, who drafted and developed Marcus Stroman.
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Dominican shortstop Miguel Hiraldo (No. 23), Venezuelan righthander Alejandro Melean (No. 32), Panamanian shortstop Leonardo Jimenez (No. 36) and Dominican outfielder Alberto Rodriguez (No. 38) are all linked to the Blue Jays as well. So are shortstops Jostin Chirinos and Jose Rivas, catcher Geiver Gimenez, outfielder Carlos Canache and Ronald Govea, all from Venezuela, and Dominican shortstop Rainer Diaz.