For more coverage of the international signing period, see all the content and all the players I've written about in the free July 2nd Content Index. Also see my initial story about the Yankees unprecedented international plans and the game theory implications of the strategy.
Yankees Strategy Update
Without a doubt, the biggest story of this July 2nd is the New York Yankees' plans to make a mockery of their spending limit (which is around $2 million), a story that I broke in December with a thorough analysis (though that didn't keep other "journalists" from passing it off as their scoop over a month later).
Since I initially reported this story, I've talked to numerous international sources and went to the Dominican Republic for a week to see the top players myself. For subscribers of the site, you've had access to videos, scouting reports, rumors of verbal deals/interested clubs and updates on the Yankees' specific strategy for weeks, but now I'm making some of that information public for the first time.
I originally reported the Yankees had deals with with about a half dozen players for about $12 million in December (skip to the next section for details on the players). I've since confirmed with international sources that this is still essentially the case. The belief in December is that this was the main thrust of New York's plans, with the Bombers likely adding another notable player or two before July 2nd and possible spending up to $15 million.
Sources indicate the first wave of six verbal deals all happened on one day, in late November/early December. The Yankees struck all six deals at once, after rumors had already spread in the industry that New York had a much heavier scouting presence in Latin America in the fall. For competitive reasons, this plan makes sense: other clubs and agents couldn't adjust their actions based on word of one or two big, early deals the Yankees had struck.
That belief has now shifted and the industry is preparing for another wave of signings from the Bombers in the coming months. International sources are now saying they've heard a "second phase" is coming, with a significant amount of bonus commitments: presumably another coordinated signing wave. One source says he has heard $20 million mentioned as a possible target for overall Yankee bonus spending.
This plan also makes sense to me strategically. I noted in the original reporting that committing almost all of their available funds so early in the process may be necessary for some reasons, but creates problems as 15 year olds' talent level can change before July 2nd and new players can emerge. It's also prudent for the Yankees to sign only hitters with their early wave, as pitchers are much more volatile at this young of an age. I'd expect them to add a pitcher or two in this next batch of signings. There are some rumors about who may be targeted in this second wave, but nothing too concrete. Skip down to the top available players section for some names for Yankee fans to monitor.
Note: the last few swings at the end of the video in the blue uniform are from January, 2013
Current Yankees Verbal Deals
Some sources will debate the relative "done deal" levels of these six players or that they heard the bonus is for a couple hundred thousand higher or lower, but these six represent an industry consensus of the deals the Yankees are believed to currently have in place. Dermis Garcia (3B, Dominican) is believed to have a deal for $3 million, Nelson Gomez (3B, Dominican) is also believed to have a deal for $3 million, Juan De Leon (CF, Dominican) is believed to have a deal for $2 million, Jonathan Amundaray (OF, Venezuela) is believed to have a deal for $1.5 million, Chris Torres (SS, Dominican) is believed to have a deal for $1 million and Diego Castillo (SS, Venezuela) is believed to have a deal for $900,000.
For more details on these players like scouting reports and videos, click on their names, though most of it is for subscribers of the Scout.com network. I've made the video and scouting report for Dermis Garcia free as a preview.
Why Is This Happening?
I cover this in more detail (along with the international draft implications) in the analysis of the Yankees story, but it is due mostly to the unintended consequences of the rules MLB has put in place, which MLB will likely be forced to change again. When the market had no spending limits, clubs knew they could always outbid someone for a top player, so deals generally weren't struck except for a few months before July 2nd and almost never before January. With spending limits in place, clubs are looking for the best way to get bang for their limited buck and many feel that locking players up early is the best way.
Once one club does it, then others do it and over a dozen players were locked up for this year's class before 2014 began. Separately, the Yankees saw weakness in their own farm system and a strategic opportunity in the rules (like the Cubs and Rangers had in the past) to spend crazily and replenish their system. To get that many players locked up, you have to do some of them early and overpay in a few cases. So, a market that was already moving to earlier and earlier deals is now getting generally pushed upward with more competition and more money, all happening earlier than it's ever happened before.
Top Players Believed To Be Off The Market
The factors mentioned above combine to make this the first time in history that this much of the top of the market has shaken out this early. For the rest of the class, I'll give you five of the top rumored deals (with varying degrees of conviction about each in the industry), five of the top players still on the market and one wild card to keep an eye on. Adrian Rondon (SS, Dominican) is widely believed to have a deal done for $3.5 million and the Tampa Bay Rays are mentioned most often. Gilbert Lara (3B, Dominican) is also believed to have a deal done for $3.2 million after a spirited bidding war and it's believed the Milwaukee Brewers will end up signing him on July 2nd.
Anderson Espinoza (RHP, Venezuela) is believed to have a deal for $2 million with the Boston Red Sox believed to have the inside track. Ricky Aracena (SS, Dominican) is believed to have a seven figure deal for up to $2 million, with the Kansas City Royals mentioned most often. Finally, Juan Meza (RHP, Venezuela) is believed to have a deal for $1.4 million and the Houston Astros have been mentioned the most.
Top Players Still Available
Bryan Emery (CF, Colombia) is arguably the top player in the class for some scouts and he isn't believed to have a deal in place, but rumors are flying he's already been offered over $3 million. Emery's trainer (Ivan Noboa) has already pulled a rabbit out of his hat (bonus-wise) with Rangers RF Nomar Mazara ($4.95 million) and Indians SS Hector Caro ($1.1 million), so scouts that hadn't heard this rumor openly admitted it makes some sense.
Three more top Latin American prospects that all project for seven figures on July 2nd and don't appear to have deals in place yet are: Huascar Ynoa (RHP, Dominican and the younger brother of Michael Ynoa), Pedro Gonzalez (SS, Dominican) and Bryan Pena (OF, Dominican). One non-Latin American player that's drawing seven figure attention is a Korean shortstop named Hyo-Joon Park that's been working out in California recently and has drawn comparisons to Rays SS Hak-Ju Lee.
A wildcard for this year's class is Cecilio Aybar (SS, Dominican), who is eligible to sign when his one-year suspension ends on April 24th. Aybar presented himself as Obispo Aybar at this time last year and looked headed for a multi-million dollar July 2nd bonus, due to his plus-plus speed and smooth hands, but it turns out he had falsified his identity. Aybar will be 20 years old when he's eligible to sign and some scouts think he could still get seven figures.
A Video Primer
For those new to the market or that might need a rundown of the basic rules I didn't address in this article, I made a free video last week with a quick rundown of the rules, changes/news for this year and video/quick reports on Gilbert Lara, Dermis Garcia and Huascar Ynoa. Click here for the the full text of the video
Follow Kiley McDaniel on Twitter for more baseball news on July 2nd, the draft and the minor leagues.