Yankees shop wisely on international market

RHP Gaston, Cuban OFs may be among club's targets to sign

August 1st, 2018

Weeks before the start of the international signing period on July 2, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was asked about his team's approach to the amateur market.

His answers foreshadowed the busy summer.

Cashman used words like "game-changer" and "lifeblood" to describe the impact young and cost-effective prospects can have on a franchise. He touched on the process of targeting the best talent available and strategically going after them.

"We try to be aggressive," Cashman said. "We try to hire the best scouts, and we try to deploy them and cross-check everything we possibly can, and in the international world, we hope they pick us."

It's been less than a month since the international period began and Cashman is staying true to his words. The Yankees, led by Cashman and international scouting director Donny Rowland and staff, have already spent $7.9 million on 23 international prospects from places like the Bahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

It's been an eventful few days.

On Saturday, the Yankees, who had spent almost all of their original international bonus pool of $4,983,500, acquired $1 million dollars in international bonus pool money along with first baseman from the Cardinals in exchange for pitchers and . The next day, the club traded Minor League left-hander Caleb Frare to the White Sox in exchange for $1.5 million in bonus pool money and later signed right-hander Osiel Rodriguez, ranked No. 9 on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 International Prospects list, for $600,000.

On Monday, the Yanks acquired $1.25 million in international pool money from the Mariners in exchange for right-hander to increase their total of available bonus pool money to $3.3 million and set the stage for more international signings. (While teams are given a set pool to begin with, they can supplement that by acquiring up to 75 percent of their original pool via trades. Given the Yankees' original pool was roughly $5 million, so the most they can add to that is about $3.75 million.)

The club was also active Tuesday, signing shortstop Alexander Vargas for $2.5 million.

The Vargas acquisition likely means the club is out of the competition for Cuban outfielders Victor Victor Mesa, 22, and Victor Mesa Jr., 16, when they are declared free agents. The club had also expressed interest in right-hander Sandy Gaston, who is No. 14 on MLB Pipeline's International Prospects rankings, and shortstop Carlos Verdecia, but it's unclear if those players are still targets.

What's certain is that the Yankees' acquisition of Vargas, another high-profile international prospect, is not a surprise. In addition to Vargas and Rodriguez, the club signed outfielder Kevin Alcantara, ranked No. 11, for $1 million, catcher Antonio Gomez, ranked No. 11, for $600,000, and pitcher Denny Larrondo, ranked No. 29, for $550,000.

And while the ultimate goal when signing international prospects is to have these players succeed in the club's Minor League system and eventually play in the big leagues following the path of current Yankees like and , it's also common to package young international talent in trades to acquire missing pieces to help the Major League club.

Cashman knows this, too. It's the reason he's so involved on the international front.