Yanks have missed the boat with talented IFAs

The IFA market is where the Yanks can find high upside talents like Yasiel Puig

The IFA market is where the Yanks can find high upside talents like Yasiel Puig

Anyone watching Sportscenter for the last week or so has seen Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig put on a show, cracking opposite field HRs and gunning runners out from RF.  He has jump-started the anemic Dodgers offense and energized their fan base while looking like a young Bo Jackson on the field.  Watching Puig and being reminded of fellow Cuban OF Yoenis Cespedes while playing the A’s tonight, I couldn’t help but cringe when thinking that both of these talents were available to the Yankees a little more than a year ago.  At a time when the Yankees offense is putrid and their corner OFs are the worst in baseball it is very frustrating

Puig was one of 3 talented Cuban OFs who were available to the highest bidder in 2012.  Cespedes and highly regarded Cubs prospect Jorge Soler were the other 2.   Many of us fans thought the Yankees would sign at least one of them and it’s beginning to look like they made a big mistake by passing on these talents.  Under Brian Cashman’s leadership, the Yankees have become extremely conservative on the International Free Agent market.  After being burned by the signings of Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa, the team has refused to spend significant money on any IFA.  In an interview this winter with Drew Voros, Cashman said. “We have learned over time to be very conservative and cautious in acquiring pitching talent from Japan, for instance. It’s a different game there”

Cashman has been applying that conservative approach to all IFAs, signing only a few low-priced players like Adonis Garcia and Ronnier Mustelier.  While it’s natural to be conservative, it seems the team has become gun-shy and is more afraid of making a mistake.  When you have the largest payroll in MLB, you can afford to take some risks on high-upside talents.  While it’s true you cannot expect success in Japan, Cuba, Korea or any other league to equate to success in MLB, talent plays anywhere.  And that is where the Yankees are missing the boat.  If a 20-yr old LHP in the U.S. was consistently throwing 98-100 MPH or when a trio of young OFs are displaying 4 out of 5 plus tools or a 6’5′ 225 pitcher is throwing 3 plus MLB pitches with great command and poise, you have to get involved!  The Yanks let all of the above players pass them by when all they would cost was money….no draft picks, no players in trade.  Where else can the Yankees obtain talent like that? The answer is no where.  While I think the Yanks did well in this year’s amateur draft, they never have access to elite amateur talent picking at the end of the first round and the financial restraints put on them in the new CBA when it comes to signing amateur foreigners, they are going to have trouble finding high-end talent there also. Well, no problem, the Yankees have always just been able to buy Free Agents at the Major League level, right? Well that window has been closing also.  Teams are locking up their young talented players before they become FAs and the small number of big talents that do hit the open market are able to command huge salaries since so many teams have money to spend.

The Yankees MUST become players on the IFA market again.  They are paying $27 Million for washed up Vernon Wells and Ichiro to play LF and RF this year and next – approximately $6.5M per yr for each of them.  Meanwhile, 22-yr old stud Yasiel Puig signed with LA for $6 Million a year for 7 years and the A’s 27-yr old slugging OF Yoenis Cespedes (36 HRs and .843 OPS in 181 games) is earning $9M per season over 4 years.  And they aren’t the only IFA players doing well.  Japanese OF Norichi Aoki had a strong year for Milwaukee last season hitting .288 with 10 HRs and 30 SBs and is hitting .300 with a .375 OBP this season while earning just $1.25 M per yr (plus a $2.5M posting fee for his rights).  These are just some IFA OFs who were signed in the last year or2 but there are other IFAs all over MLB from Shin-Soo-Choo to Dayan Viciedo to Alexi Ramirez, etc.

There has also been a wave of talented foreign pitchers doing well in MLB the last year or 2 also.  The 100-MPH lefty I mentioned of course is Reds closer Aroldis Chapman who has a 15.4 K/9.  Texas Ace Yu Darvish was a guy I thought the Yanks should have been all over.  He’s a true #1 type starter in his prime at just 26 and signed for the extremely reasonable 6 years @ $56M. An ace pitcher hitting the FA market would get nearly triple that. And make no mistake about it, Darvish is an Ace.  He’s 7-2 with a 2.75 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and a 12.0 K/9 pitching in the offensive haven of Texas.  And he’s not alone as a front-end starter, Korean LHP Ryu-Hyu Jin is 6-2 with a 2.89 era in his first year for the Dodgers,  Japanese RHP Hisashi Iwakuma is 7-1 with a 1.89 ERA and 0.81 WHIP for Seattle in his 2nd season and 27-yr old Taiwanese LHP Wei-Yin Chen has been Baltimore’s best starter the last year and a half.

It’s time for the Yankees to dive back in to the IFA waters.  George Steinbrenner was a trailblazer who was all over talented IFAs.  While it worked brilliantly with Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and Hideki Matsui, the failures of Irabu and Igawa seem to have the Yankee brass afraid today.  It is poor reasoning to write off all big-ticket IFAs because of a couple of failures.  This is the last market where the Yankees money can be used to acquire high-end talent.  Amateur IFAs are subject to spending limits and penalties in the CBA but for veteran IFAs 23 and older, it’s still an open market and one which the Yankees must begin to capitalize on or they will have to continue to spend their money on the veteran has-beens like Wells and Ichiro.

About fishjam25

Was a 4-yr Pitcher and Communications Major at Seton Hall University in the 90s. His knowledge & opinion of the game comes from his background as a player and ardent lifetime Yankee fan. However, Fishjam also incorporates sabermetrics and statistical support to form a well-rounded view of the game.

Posted on June 13, 2013, in Analysis, No Category, Personal Opinion, Rants and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Jamie25….
    While your article is more fact full, insightful, and more in depth than my words regarding
    this teams offense….never the less, I agree with you. Missing the boat, when it carries talent, is
    a shame. Those players were there for the taking. Perhaps Overbay will step up?
    Only kidding.

    • Yes Patrick, Its frustrating to watch the Yanks offense struggle with high-priced old-timers when these high-talented , dynamic young players were all available to them. And many of us said it at the time also so it’s not Monday morning QBing.

  2. Gee fishjam….
    I wonder who got up on the wrong side of the bed today? Take a pill or chill out (is that right?), you know Cashman said their were some body’s in that Cuban bunch he was interested in! The Yankees made a couple offers but, as I remember, they were insults not offers one could contemplate!
    It may well be all Cashmans doing but, it doesn’t make sense. I think it had to do with Hal only giving his ok on a limited amount…like, “0”!
    As for “King George”, he belongs in the HOF, he was the right guy at the right time for the Yankees.
    I didn’t and don’t like somethings he did but, he put the Yankee name on top again.
    The King hurt our Farm system so bad it has taken over 10+ years to get to the point we are at now.

    New name at the head of the table, “Cheep” Hal! Hal is caught between a rock and a hard place. He knows little and cares little, for baseball. The conundrum for him is FAMILY or the Yankees.
    1-Family wants enough money out of the team to live as they have been…(without working?) Some even went so far as to tell Hal to sell the team and everything that goes with it.

    2-Team, he knows little about baseball, being a bookkeeper, he gives Andy L (Bookkeeper) a special place in his thinking. He knows Cashman is the baseball guy and boss but, continually takes the advice of Andy to which, he has made the Team pay (in talent) for…I think, “Know your Limitations”, fits in very well here.

    Bottom line is; Hal/Andy/Family will destroy this team by not spending where it is needed.
    Sell the team if you want money so much!

    Cashman; quits or is not tendered! His being GM in name only is making him look bad and frustrated.

    Hay, I am the only guy around here that takes 2,000 words to Say; SELL THE DAMN TEAM if you are not going to let the people do their job!

    • You are correct ken, its not all on Cashman. Hal and Levine’s orders to reduce payroll under the $189M threshold in 2014 has made Cashman hesitant to sign anyone to multi-year deals. In fact, I can’t think of one significant player signed to a multi-yr deal since the spending spree of Winter 2008. They keep signing vets to 1-yr deals then STUPIDLY gave Ichiro a 2-yr deal and took on 2-yrs of Vernon Wells. Terrible decisions by the front office.

  3. Your right ON fishjam25, but one thing, Get rid of dew BOY Cashman, and Hal and Hank need to sell the team to someone like KING GEORGE, whom actually LOVES the YANKEES. RIP SWISHER. could of had Hunter, Headly and Either there teams wanted him gone before the season. ECT…

    • I’m with ya Tony….the direction this front office (including Cash, Levine, Trost, Hal & Hank) has the team going is not a good one. The new stadium wasn’t done right, prices are way too high, YES ratings are way down, the team on the field is not great and the upper minors are weak. King George made a lot of stupid moves but at least he had passion for the team and you NEVER questioned his burning desire to win.

      • fishjam…
        I disagree and agree with your comment;
        Front office is Tampa Mafia…Levine, Trost, etc, now joined by Hal & Hank. Cashman has never been part of that bunch.

        King George was and did as you say fishjam but, realistically, he decimated our whole Farm system.

        An owner with Georges’ Passion for the Yankees and knowledgeable enough to know he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know…would be perfect…in a perfect world…but, this isn’t a ………………..!

  4. Even more reason why Hal should sell the team and get Cashmsan the hell outta here. He is the most over rated GM in Baseball. He is clueless.

    • Joe G…
      If he is so clueless, why do owners (every three years) talk to him about signing with them?
      If he is so clueless, why did George give FULL power to Cashman over Randy et. el?

      Big fan of Cashmans…more like, defender!
      Best GM…maybe not! Clueless…sure not!
      Replace him or he quits…more than likely!

    And plays in the Yankee system?
    Bignac(.121) Romine(.132) Teixeira(.157)…..combined!

    And there are those that call this simply, a slump.
    A disaster, that will only get worse, is what it is.

    • Patrick, it just shows that the jump from AAA to the majors is great, I believe Romine, Adams and Neal were all hitting over ,300 in AAA this year.

      • doug….good evening. You may be right.
        Observing the not piling on rules, I did not add Hafner’s, or Adam’s BA into the equation.
        I am a long distance beach walker. 20-25 miles a clip. My season may start earlier this year.
        Take care.

  6. I would rather have rising stars Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig on the Yankees over washed up bums Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells.

  7. THIS IS A BATTING FUNGUS…read today’s symptoms.
    Mark ” The text message” Teixeira… .151 avg….gets hurt.
    His replacement,…Adams…an upgrade, .213. Better days are here!
    Down side….Brignac, now at .111.
    And, Boston moves another game up.
    Is somebody accountable here?

    • Patrick, in answer to your question!
      Unlike our country, yes, Cashman is accountable!
      Don’t get your knickers in a bunch, my Irish friend! Perception is fact, with most fans…but, not always the truth!

      If I give you $40,000 to buy a great addition to my Mercedes and Cadillac, what do you come home with? Exactly, a Buick or Chevy and what does that do to the integrity of the collection as a whole?
      You got it, by addition we end-up with subtraction…less value, as a group! The same thing with the Yankees, NO GM could have done much with very limited moneys and being told, Yoenis Cespedes along with most of the other IFA want to much money….PASS! Hay go get Itchy, he is a star and will help the Yankees more than Brett…sure right!

      The day that will live on in infamy, Hal decided to cut payroll and let Randy and the rest of the Tampa Mafia over ride Cashman was the end of the Yankees as we knew it. Even King George saw the light on that one, he gave full control to Cashman…over the Tampa Mafia!


  8. Joel Sherman had an article today on how the Dodgers took a big risk on Puig. In it he talks of why the Yankees weren’t in on him. He mentions their recent penny pinching and Cashman’s reluctance to sign anyone anymore with huge amounts of data on them:

    “The Yankees, counting pennies more than ever, also never made an offer. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman explained how hard it is to make judgments if a player can transition from the NL to the AL or from Triple-A to New York — and that is with reams of information. How do you pay millions and millions based on a handful of workouts?”

    Well with that philosophy, the yanks will NEVER be players for International players again. How do you make judgements on players based on workouts? You do it the old-fashioned way…..with the EYES of your scouts! Talent jumps off the field when you watch a guy working out or playing a game….you scout the player’s tools, abilities, body, body-language and attitude. You talk to his peers and you do your homework. so many GMs have become so dependent on stats and computers to make decisions for them that they can’t make a decision on a player without them.

    Puig comes to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday with the Dodgers and everyone can be the judge if this guys talent doesn’t jump off the page.


    • I am one tick-off fan, I can’t believe Cashman said that drivel. Joel must have taken something the wrong way (he does that a lot), because Cashman gets stats and scouting reports about everything there is to know about that player. The bottom line in all that paperwork is, the recommendation of said scout. Last I heard, Cash asked for money but, was turned down…with-out money in hand there was no signing.
      All those stats are is a helping hand for the GM and the scouts. They watch a player in many situations and games…then make a recommendation to the GM!

    • fishjam, Sherman is a creditable source when it comes to baseball, but with a guy like Puig it is not that simple. There are players like Carlos Gomez who was a big prospect but took a while to become a good major league players. Two teams passed him up, the Mets and Twins. Now he looks like he is coming into his own. Talent is one thing, but being successful in the majors is another. Swisher was another late bloomer. Puig and Harvey look like 2 great young players, but the sample is small, baseball can be a humbling game. For every Kershaw and Trout there is a Hamels, Hamilton, and Pujols. This is why the the Yanks need to think long and hard on Cano.

      • doug…
        Don Matanly was pigonholed as a good glove, avg. to + stick with no power. Yogi was said to have NO future in baseball at all etc., the list goes on and on. One or two teams passed on Jeter. Then you have guys like A-Rod…stars from the first day. Puig, Harvey, Trout and Kershaw have come out swinging as it were but, where will they be in 4 or five years…the same or better?

        I have been speaking up against a long contract for Cano! Although he has all the athletic talent in the world and could very well move to 3rd if he slows down at all. He is not anywhere near what he could be! I don’t know if he will ever get to the point of Super-star…even though some news people and other fans keep telling us he is that now! No he is not, he is just the best player the Yankees have and maybe the best 2nd baseman in baseball right now.

        Talent is not always enough, the mental part helps even the less talented became stars!

  9. EDUARDO NUNEZ….the big buzz at all the sites over the winter.
    Now….Nary a word.
    Errors, low batting average, injuries(now ribcage), trouble throwing straight, etc.
    Never could understand the hype.

  10. patrick, good to see you back here commenting more than once or twice then gone!
    Me thinks, you may have the wrong opinion of Nunez.
    When he was in the Farm system, one of the guys on the other site said he was a good SS on the way up. I disagreed with him. I said he had the stick, range, speed, avg glove but, his arm was like a scatter gun. I was right, big deal! He has been working on his new throwing motion for a while and he is much better.
    This year he started out OK but, his hitting went down hill from there! After that he was injured, what is the expectations from a fans base, but perfection right? Sorry, hurt is hurt and that is that, in a nutshell. 🙂

    Thanks for the kind words.
    Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the Yankees have signed first baseman/DH Randy Ruiz and assigned the slugger to Triple-A. Ruiz, 35, has a monstrous .301/.373/.524 batting line and 232 homers in parts of 15 minor league seasons. He batted .313/.385/.635 with 10 homers in 130 plate appearances for the Blue Jays in 2009 but went just 6-for-40 with the Jays in 2010. He hasn’t appeared in the Majors since, though he did total 68 plate appearances for the Twins in 2008.
    ( Pray for lightning in a bottle.)

  12. I think the Yanks did very well in the draft, picking Jageilo, Judge, and Clarkin in the first round. All three fill the Yanks needs and were highly rated picks. As we know only time will tell if they become productive Yankees. They also signed some good players in the later rounds like O’Neil, Palladino,Thomas, and Coleman.

    • I like their 1st round picks also. They got 3 guys who were considered top 30 talents on most experts lists and got a good mix of a polished college hitter who should rise quickly…..a high upside college hitter with major power potential and a HS pitcher with big huge upside.

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