Rooting for a club with a Top Six farm system has its perks – especially when your cross-town rivals slot at #20. But as we all know prospects can break your hearts and checks can fill all sorts of holes - so the future is not completely set in stone.
But we can all take heart in the assurance that the already lacking Yanks farm system has nowhere to go but down – right? After all, signing Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury will cost them three high draft picks this year. So they must not even care about young talent right? Not so fast. The Highlanders aren't as cavalier about refilling their pipeline as some Mets fans would like to think. Unsurprisingly their plan involves a lot of cash and players you can’t draft on June 5th.
The signing of Masahiro Tanaka has shown the luxury tax cap is no obstacle if the alternative is punting the playoffs for a season. Of course, Tanaka who's only 5 months older than Matt Harvey, may not pan out and a single 25-year-old "maybe stud pitcher" does not a farm system rebuild.
But can $12-15 million?
That’s the amount one report at Scout.com suggests the Yanks will spend on international signings in addition to Tanaka this year.
The Yanks bonus pool was expected to be $2-$2.5m – so a $15m spend would be the equivalent of signing six to seven years worth of IFA’s in a single signing period. It’s not quite the same as having six or seven first round picks in the regular draft but it’s not too far off. It's certainly a bold approach to reloading the farm system quickly.
This strategy of course doesn’t come without a cost.
First there’s the $12-15m spend. Then there’s a 100% penalty on any monies spent after you’ve hit 110% of your cap which could equal $12.8m. And by going 15% over the cap the Yanks would be barred from signing any IFA for more than $300k in the next two signing periods.
The first two items are just dollars which apparently don’t matter much to the Yanks. As for the loss of high dollar signees for two years it sounds harsh but is it really?
Last IFA period the Yanks signed one player for $1.5m and another for $550k – that took them above their cap but not to the point of losing signing privileges for this year. So if their cap remains in the $2-$2.5m range over the next couple of off-seasons they’d basically lose the ability to sign two high dollar ($1m) players each of the next two signing windows or four total. But if they’re spending $15m this off-season, they’d be able to afford fifteen prospects that cost $1m each. Fifteen minus the six they'd normally sign over 3 years means they’d net out at nine more high-dollar signees than if they went year-to-year!
As long as you can write the check it’s a pretty good play to pick up 9 more high-dollar guys by swapping six high-dollar signing slots for fifteen. Expensive? Sure. But it sure suggests you value young talent as much as the next guy. And if they add in additional non-capped youngsters from Japan and Cuba each year they can add further depth and potential high-ceiling players.
Of course, it’s not without risk.
You need a deep talent pool if your hope is to sign a dozen or more million dollar players. Otherwise you're just wasting money. Of course, they could sign five $1m guys and twenty more guys for $500k each. I couldn’t find a listing of 2013 IFA signees that included salary amounts but I know that there are guys that go for 7 figures. I haven’t yet been able to establish exactly how many.
This isn't an overnight fix. Most all these IFA signees are teen-agers that are likely at least five years away from being able to help the big club. While this strategy may allow the Yanks to rebuild the farm, it will be a long time before this class is likely to find their way to the Bronx.
Where do you fit them? I guess finding playing time for 15 potentially great young players instead of 2 potentially great ones and 13 lesser lights is a good problem to have.
This report was originally published before the Tanaka signing when it was thought the Yanks were staying under the $189m luxury tax limit. It’ll be interesting to see if they cancel this massive IFA investment in light of the Tanaka induced luxury tax hit they're facing.
Either way, it’d be a mistake to assume the Yanks are doomed to be old, overpaid and without a replacement pipeline for long. They’ll probably always be one of the older and more overpaid teams out there but they may yet be able to develop some tradable assets if this plan gets implemented. At the very least it appears they realize they've got a problem and are trying to get creative about solving it. Now if only the Mets would try it . . .