Ben Badler of Baseball America has an interesting story about a complaint raised by a trainer/agent in the Dominican Republic. He says the Yankees had an agreement to sign his 16-year-old client, Christopher Torres, in June for $2.1 million. And that, indeed, the agreement to sign him come June was reached late last year. Then June 2 came around, the Yankees didn’t sign him, every other team’s bonus pool money was dried up and now Torres is in limbo.
The Yankees deny this, saying that while there were discussions, no offer was ever made. The team simply changed its mind and moved on. Worth noting, however, the MLB had a recent meeting with the Yankees about all of this. No one is talking about it, but it’s possible that someone somewhere thinks the Yankees violated the norms of the signing period.
But apart to Torres himself, the dispute itself is not as interesting for what happened here specifically, but for what it shows us about how international signings work in the capped bonus era.
Teams and teenagers reach handshake agreements — or maybe just nods across a room — months in advance. When they do, it gets disseminated through baseball, causing other teams to back off. This dance is happening earlier and earlier because of the limited amount of money MLB allows teams to spend on international free agents these days. Everyone needs to plan more and plan in advance. When teams’ plans change, however, the kids are the ones left with few options.
Some say the solution to all of this is an international draft. Others say that going back to a system where teams are not so severely limited on signing bonuses is the answer. I fall in the latter camp. Ask yourself: if the Yankees truly were high enough on this kid to offer him big dollars, might another team want to swoop in if he became available? They can’t, though, because by then they’re already tapped out.
It’s rough out there. The international signing game is full of crazy incentives and unfortunate stories like this.
Mariners’ right-hander Arquimedes Caminero is nearing a deal with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. The club has reportedly agreed to sell the 29-year-old’s contract, Dutton writes, though no official move has been announced by either team yet. Caminero is under club control through 2020 and currently ineligible for arbitration.
The right-hander began the 2016 season with the Pirates but was sent to the Mariners in a trade for Seattle minor leaguers Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez in order to clear space in the Bucs’ bullpen. With the Mariners, Caminero produced a 3.66 ERA and 8.2 K/9 through 19 2/3 innings in the second half of the year. Although he boasts an electric fastball, one which consistently averaged 98.7 m.p.h. in 2016, his success rate has been tempered by poor control throughout his major league career. According to Dutton, the Mariners’ willingness to sell Caminero’s contract was a strong indication that they did not see him as a viable contender for their 2017 bullpen or as a potential trade chip further down the line.
Should the deal go through, the right-hander will be the second former Mariner to sign with a Japanese club for the 2017 season. Per Dutton’s report, outfielder Stefen Romero also picked up a contract with the Orix Buffaloes of NPB in late November.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.