The Yankees and international free agents

There was a time when the Yankees were usually seen as the favorites to land any international free agent they coveted. From Orlando Hernandez and Hideki Irabu to Jose Contreras and Hideki Matsui, the Yankees (and their checkbook) were the big players on the block, and the international free agent market was a way for them to add new talent without going through the more traditional channels of acquiring and developing new players. In recent years, however, they’ve been remarkably quiet on that front, especially given that we’ve seen some of the most intriguing talents in the history of international free agency come to the states since 2009. Last year alone, the Yankees let the Rangers and A’s have Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes, respectively, with little more than a token show of interest from The Bronx. As Brad Vietrogoski wrote at TYA the other day, those are two players that could have helped them quite a bit in retrospect.

Because of the posting system and the fact that Darvish was ultimately a nine figure investment, I’m willing to leave him aside and say that I can understand not putting in a $50 million bid for the rights to acquire him, on top of his actual contract. Even at the cost of Jesus Montero, there’s a pretty clear case to be made that acquiring Michael Pineda was the more prudent course of action, bot because he would be much cheaper than Darvish and because he had the 2011 season on his resume. That said, it’s pretty difficult to see why the Yankees didn’t have more of an interest in Cespedes, even without factoring in his 136 wRC+ and 3.1 fWAR rookie campaign. Even if you couldn’t guess that an injury would open up immediate playing time for him at the big league level, the Yankees knew that they’d be in need of an outfielder when they let Nick Swisher walk this offseason, and that they didn’t have any viable replacements within their own system. With Torii Hunter signing a two year, $26 million contract with Detroit yesterday, the $9 million AAV in Cespedes’ deal would make the Yankees’ budget plans look a lot easier to achieve.

Going back a little further than that, I’m still pretty puzzled as to why Aroldis Chapman isn’t a member of the Yankees’ organization. Coming out of Cuba in the winter of 2010, Chapman was arguably the most heralded amateur free agent of all time with his 100 MPH fastball and wipeout slider. He ultimately signed for a total of $30.25 million with the Reds, while the Yankees never even made him an offer. That’s pretty staggering, given that Chapman appeared to have a floor pretty close to what he is now, a dominant left-handed reliever, and while $30 million seems like a lot to give to a lefty reliever, the Yankees committed $16 million to Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano in the time since, two players whose ceiling was being a top notch LOOGY. Much like Cespedes, imagine how much sturdier the Yankees 2014 roster would look if you could slot Chapman’s $5 million AAV onto the roster, whether in the starting rotation or in the bullpen (especially if 2013 proves to be Mariano Rivera‘s last year).

On the whole, I think it’s pretty odd that more media figures haven’t spent more time wondering why the Yankees weren’t interested in any of these guys, and that we don’t have any indication that there’s been much second guessing over these missed opportunities within the organization itself. Because make no mistake: based on what we have heard about the Yankees’ level of interest in these players, they were misses, and with the combination of caps on signing international amateurs and the self-imposed salary cap looming, the mistakes appear even larger as you look into the future.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

11 thoughts on “The Yankees and international free agents

  1. San Ramon Fred

    Great thoughts. Wondering and worrying about the same issues re this new management.

  2. Tim

    Because these are no longer the Geroge Steinbrenner run Yankees is the best reason,

  3. pat

    It's no longer about winning the World Series, now it's about getting under the $189,000,000 cap. That said the Yankee glory days won't return until they start developing talent in the organization as they did 20 years ago (Bernie, Andy, Mo, DJ and Jorje).

    • Edmund_Dantes

      Wasn't Rivera an international signing?

  4. jay_robertson

    Guys – get real – we were WELL OVER the cap this year. And last. And the year before.

    Yet somehow, its been a while since we won a Series. Maybe they should rename this blog – perhaps something like "It Takes MORE Than Just Money, Stupid."

    Because it does.

    • Jim

      The reason why these free agents are not Yankees is because Brian Cashman is a bad GM. He corrects his enormous amont of misteaks with his name CASH and he and scouts continue to make bad talent evaluations.

  5. uyf1950

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It's what makes every fan a genius and Cashman a moron. But truth be told in spite of what we fans may or may not think of Cashman the Yankees have made the postseason in all but 1 year under his watch as GM. So give the man some credit. No GM has been more successful. Remember it's not how much you spend but how you spend it. You need look no further then the payrolls of the Cubs, Mets, Phillies and Red Sox over the years. That's just my opinion.

    • Bill

      And a reasonable opinion it is. He's not perfect, but he's better than most. It's unfortunate that the George Steinbrenner mentality has so thoroughly infiltrated itself in the Yankee fan base. Having lived through the lean years of 1965-1975 and the George Steinbrenner fueled disasters from 1982-1992, I'd rather be in this position. And, for those Cashman bashers, the albatross that is A-Rod is the direct result of Hank Steinbrenner's idiocy (and who knows if the old man was behind it). Cashman wanted to take that money elsewhere, and Miguel Cabrera (oh, the 2012 MVP?) was on his list of targets. So go ahead and bash Cash, but this teams finds a way to stick its nose in the postseason every year.

    • BrienJackson

      Is this comment directed at me or the one above it?

      • uyf1950

        It was meant for "Jim" and his comments about Cashman. Sorry I should have been a little clearer about that in my post.

        • BrienJackson

          heh, I didn't think anything of it when I saw it through my email, but wondered when I saw it wasn't nested.

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