Rays add two top international prospects

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When we checked in a few hours ago, eight of Baseball America’s top 20 international prospects had signed. Now it’s up to 14 of the 18 eligible to do so. Left-hander Luis Gohara (July 31) and shortstop Sergio Alcantara (July 10) aren’t eligible to ink contracts until their 16th birthdays later this month.

The Rays added inked two of the six additions, and they’re Nos. 3 and 14 on the Baseball America list. No. 3 Jose Mujica is a right-handed pitcher, while No. 14 David Rodriguez is a catcher. Both were signed out of Venezuela.

The Yankees, already in possession of BA’s No. 2 prospect in catcher Luis Torrens, added No. 4, Venezuelan outfielder Alexander Palma. They also signed shortstop Yancarlos Baez, who didn’t make the list. In all, the three players got $2.75 million in bonuses, leaving the Yankees already up against the new $2.9 million cap.

The top player left on BA’s list is Venezuelan left-hander Jose Casillo, who is also rumored to be signing with the Rays.

One team that hasn’t been active so far is the Rangers. They’ve made big splashes in recent years, but they may be holding on to their cap room this year to sign Jairo Beras. As you may remember, the Rangers initially inked Beras for $4.5 million in March, only to have his status come under question because of his age. The Rangers say Beras is 17, which would have made him eligible to sign in March. Other teams thought he was 16 and wouldn’t be eligible to sign until today.

Yankees to hire Josh Bard as their new bench coach

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Aaron Boone has no experience as a coach or a manager at any level. As such, some have speculated that he’d hire a more seasoned hand as his bench coach as he begins his first season as Yankees manager. Someone like, say, Eric Wedge, who was a candidate for the job Boone got and who once managed Boone in Cleveland.

Nope. According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, he’s going with Josh Bard.

Bard, 39, was a teammate of Boone’s with the Indians in 2005. He’s not without coaching experience, having spent the last two seasons as the Dodgers’ bullpen coach, but he’s not that Gene Lamont/Don Zimmer-type we often see in the bench coach role.

Which is fine because different managers want different things from their bench coach. Some are strategy guys, helping with in-game decision making. Others are relationship guys who help managers understand all of the dynamics of the clubhouse while they’re worrying more about lineups and stuff. Others are trust guys, who can serve as the manager’s sounding board, among other things. Some are combinations of all of these things. As Feinsand notes in his story, Boone said at his introductory press conference that he’s looking for this:

“I want smart sitting next to me. I want confidence sitting next to me. I want a guy who can walk out into that room and as I talk about relationships I expect to have with my players, I expect that even to be more so with my coaching staff. Whether that is a guy with all kinds of experience or little experience. I am not concerned about that.”