Despite signing Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury to long term deals, the Yankees are trying their very best to acquire young talent for the future. With relatively new spending restrictions on prospects for winning teams, the Yankees have tried to crack the limitations of the new CBA. This season they acquired three first round picks, landing Eric Jagielo, Ian Clarkin, and Aaron Judge, as well as a big bonus second rounder in Gosuke Katoh. The organization also signed another top prospect in Leonardo Molina, a center fielder that was ranked by Baseball America as the 5th best international prospect for 2013.
While 2013 proved successful in acquiring top young talent, the Yankees did so by allowing Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano to depart. The organization again lost Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson in 2013, but the team has already given up their three first round picks by signing McCann, Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. To limit the impact of losing out on prime picks in the 2014 Rule 4 draft, the organization plans to break the international bonus pool restrictions for the 2014 class. The Yankees want to spend somewhere between $12 million to $15 million in bonuses for international amateurs. While this will likely land them a huge chunk of the top tier of prospects, it will also trigger a 100% tax once they’re over their designated pool of around $2.5 million. It will also prevent them from giving away bonuses over $300,000 over the next two years. While this will help them acquire talent in 2014, they will limit themselves in the international market in 2015 and 2016.
But there is a way to keep acquiring young talent during these years. The current free agent market of major league players is still filled with players that will cost signing teams their best available non-protected draft pick. There is still plenty of offseason left for them to sign, but the pitching market is completely loaded with players like Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Bronson Arroyo, A.J. Burnett, and Paul Maholm, while David Price and Jeff Samardzija remain on the trade block. With so many options, it seems inevitable that some of these pitchers will have to settle for one year deals and hope that the 2014-2015 offseason offers them a bigger opportunity. Likewise, the market for infielder Stephen Drew has shrunken to two reluctant teams in the Mets and Red Sox, who don’t seem keen on going past a one year deal. Kendrys Morales and Nelson Cruz likely have some longer contract interest, but both have reasons to rebuild their free agent value in 2014, as Cruz needs to reestablish himself after the PED suspension, and Morales could see better numbers in a more hitter friendly environment than Safeco Field.
Cruz, Drew, Jimenez, Morales, and Santana each remain on the market while costing interested teams their first non-protected draft pick. On short one or two year deals, Drew, Jimenez, and Santana make clear sense for the Yankees. If Brett Gardner is traded, Cruz could step into a corner outfield spot, while Alfonso Soriano and Beltran rotate as the DH and in the outfield. Morales would also makes some sense if Gardner were traded, as he could DH with Soriano and Beltran in the outfield. Some make more sense than others, but what’s clear is that the Yankees could take advantage of the CBA by acquiring any one of them.
For all five of these players, the Yankees would lose their next best draft pick in 2014. Their second round pick is next, obviously followed by their third round pick. By giving up later draft picks in 2014, the organization could take a gamble that these players once again earn qualifying offers after their short term deals are up, giving the Yankees first round compensation picks in the coming years. For instance, if the Yankees go on to sign Jimenez to a one year deal and Drew to a two year deal, the team would lose their second and third round picks in 2014, but could net first round picks in the 2015 and 2016 drafts. This would occur while the team is severely limited in their international bonuses, due to the overspending in 2014.
If the team does plan on spending big on the upcoming international free agent class, losing a second and third round pick in the same year isn’t too big of a deal. The potential first round picks they’d receive when they can’t do much in the 2015 and 2016 markets are big deals. We may see a few players like Gardner, David Robertson, and maybe Hiroki Kuroda net them more first round picks in 2015, but 2016 could be void of any young talent if the Yankees thoughtlessly spend without strategizing.