How Signing Yasiel Puig and Other Global Stars Could Have Recharged the Yankees
The Yankees upcoming nine-game homestand features games against the Dodgers and Rangers, who feature two of the top recent international imports in baseball in Yasiel Puig and Yu Darvish, as a recent ESPN article pointed out.
It's all hypothetical at this point, but one can't help but wonder where the Yankees would be right now not with those guys on their roster. For that matter, if they had been more aggressive on the international market in general in recent years.
They've managed to remain in contention this season through a myriad of injuries to their starting lineup and with a shaky back end of their starting rotation, but they suffered through a 1-5 week last week, and the question now is if they can sustain their success.
Top prospect Gary Sanchez was signed out of the Dominican Republic, but for the most part the Yankees have stayed away from high-priced, big league ready international talent the past two years and they've missed out.
Last offseason, Yoenis Cespedes signed a four-year, $36 million deal, and while there was a question as to how quickly he could make an impact in the big leagues, his raw talent was undeniable.
The 26-year-old went on to hit .292/.356/.505 with 23 home runs, 82 RBI and 16 steals as a rookie, giving the A's a consistent run producer in the middle of their lineup and helping power their postseason push.
In another lower-cost signing, the Brewers added outfielder Norichika Aoki on a two-year, $2.5 million deal with the plan of making him the team's fourth outfielder.
Instead, the 30-year-old ended up seeing 520 at-bats and hit .288/.355/.433 with 10 home runs and 30 steals as an everyday player.
When June rolled around, Cuban defectors Yasiel Puig (seven-year, $42 million) and Jorge Soler (nine-year, $30 million) both signed long-term deals with the Dodgers and Cubs, respectively.
Puig has been the talk of baseball since being called up, while Soler looks like a future star down the line for the Cubs. With the long-term deals they've been signed to, they could wind up as two of the better values in baseball.
It's not just been position players that the Yankees have been missing out on in the international market though, as a handful of pitchers have made an immediate impact as well.
In Seattle, the Mariners took a chance on right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma with a one-year, $1 million deal. After opening the season in the bullpen, he moved to the rotation in the second half and went 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA over 16 starts.
They re-signed him to a two-year, $14 million deal in the offseason and he is 7-2 with a 2.06 ERA in 15 starts this season as he has paired with Felix Hernandez to form perhaps the best starting pitching duo in baseball.
The Orioles signed Wei-Yin Chen to a three-year, $11.388 million deal out of Japan, and the Taiwanese-born left-hander was the Orioles most reliable starter going 12-11 with a 4.02 ERA over 32 starts.
This past offseason, the Dodgers gave Hyun-Jin Ryu a six-year, $36 million deal out of Korea to help bolster their rotation along with the signing of Zack Greinke.
He's 6-2 with a 2.85 ERA over his first 13 starts, and has a chance to challenge Shelby Miller for NL Rookie of the Year honors if he can keep it up.
The real splash signing on the international market over the past two offseasons though has been the Rangers' signing of Yu Darvish.
It cost Texas a $51.7 million posting fee to negotiate with the right-hander, and they then signed him to a six-year, $56 million deal.
He was 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 191.1 innings of work last season, and has gone 7-2 with a 2.64 ERA and MLB-high 127 strikeouts in 95.1 innings this season as the ace of the Rangers staff.
Perhaps it was the flop signing of Hideki Irabu to a four-year, $12.8 million deal back in 1997 that has turned the Yankees off of the international market. Or maybe it was watching the Red Sox throw down so much money on the signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka, only to see him struggle.
Whatever their reservations stem from, given the current state of the franchise and the impressive flow of international talent over the past two seasons, it's probably time the Yankees get back to work on the foreign market.
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