On a day that was always guaranteed to see the Yankees sign some free agents, they certainly got down to work. With the exciting news that DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber will be in pinstripes this coming season, it is easy to overlook the other additions made to the organization yesterday. After a delay of the normal opening of international free agency from July 2nd to January 15th, numerous young prospects were able to officially join a major league organization.
There was tremendous anticipation at the beginning of the 2019 international signing period as the Yankees were prepared to pay the highest signing bonus they had ever given to an amateur player in Jasson Dominguez. This year, the Yankees’ class comes with far less hype, and is even diminished as of right now from what it would have been if the signing period had opened on July 2nd, 2020 as initially planned.
The Yankees entered with the second-lowest bonus pool in baseball after forfeiting $1 million of their signing bonus pool when they signed Gerrit Cole, who was attached to a rejected qualifying offer. The rules allowing for teams to trade for additional bonus pool space were suspended this year, leaving teams with just their base allocation.
The prize of this year’s class for the Yankees is Dominican shortstop Hans Montero. The Yankees reportedly inked Montero for a $1.7-million bonus. The 5-foot-10 shortstop turned 17-years-old on Christmas day and is a right-handed hitter.
Baseball America ranks him as the 23rd-best international prospect available this winter, while he did not make MLB.com’s top-30 prospects list. The Yankees paid him in line with some of their top prospects from recent years, indicating that they really liked his skill set and were willing towards the top of the market to secure his signature.
Montero is projected to stay at shortstop, which is a prominent symbol of his athletic ability. Numerous players sign as shortstops but are quickly moved down the defensive spectrum as their bodies fill out. He is known for having soft hands and a strong arm. Montero also has plus-speed with gap power that the Yankees will be hoping to develop into something more.
Joining Hans with the Yankees is Dominican outfielder Fidel Montero (no relation). Fidel was signed as a shortstop after being listed as an athletic outfielder in his pre-signing review from Baseball America. He is said to have big tools but was not highly ranked due to inconsistent performances in game action.
Rounding out the day for the Yankees, they also signed Ramiro Altagracia, an outfielder from the Dominican Republic, and Venezuelan shortstop Kleiner Delgado.
One piece that is missing from the Yankees signing day is Jesus Galiz, who was linked to the team from early last year until recently. Galiz, a Venezulan catcher ranked eighth by MLB.com, switched his commitment in late November. He signed with the Dodgers for $400,000, which according to one report was roughly half of what the Yankees offered him. No specific reason was given for his switch, but the recent success of the Dodgers player development system likely played a factor in the decision.
The Yankees had also been linked to highly-rated prospect Samuel Basallo at certain points in the process before he switched to Baltimore. The 6-foot-4 catcher is a potential impact bat, while his size raised questions regarding how long he would remain behind the plate.
The Yankees stand with a reported four players signed after the first day of the signing period, and likely still have a significant amount of their bonus pool money to spend. Two top prospects remain free agents. Cuban outfielder Oscar Colás, ranked the second-best international free agent by MLB.com, was officially cleared as a free agent in late December. He is an attractive prospect after playing in Japan for several years and reaching the highest league as a 20-year-old. We recently ran a piece here at Pinstripe Alley about Colás and the many ways he is a great fit for the Yankees organization. He is scheduled to work out for major league teams soon but has also hinted that he is willing to waiting until the next signing period to maximize his bonus.
Also still on the market is 17-year-old Cuban shortstop Dyan Jorge, ranked 20th by MLB.com. The youngster stood out for his play against international competition with Cuba’s 15U team in 2018, and was favored to sign with Colorado for most of the lead up to signing day, but he remains available. He is considered a plus defender and runner with outstanding instincts.
The Yankees have added at least four new players to their organization with the opening of the international free agency period. It is unlikely that they will grace the top-prospect lists immediately, but the Yankees boast a strong international presence on their various prospect rankings.