The top five international free agents of the New York Yankees

Andres Chavez
New York Yankees
Dec 7, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Yankees logo during the MLB winter meetings at Gaylord Opryland Resort . Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees sure have received some top performances and careers from international free agents. They often spread the wealth and sign several players, but last time around, they spent over $5 million in one player they deemed special: Jasson Dominguez.

Whatever the approach, the Yankees know what is like to sign and develop an amateur free agent to later see him turned into a star.

Here are the top international free agents in New York Yankees’ history:

1) Mariano Rivera

The first and only player to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame in a unanimous vote, Rivera made it as a reliever, on top of all things. He was simply the most dominant bullpen arm in the history of the game.

Bryan Hoch of MLB.com wrote Mariano’s snippet: “The son of a Panamanian fisherman, Rivera’s first love was soccer, a sport that he abandoned following a series of ankle and knee injuries. At age 18, Rivera joined a local amateur baseball team and was invited to a tryout camp run by Yankees scout Chico Heron. Rivera had no formal pitching training and was only said to be clocked between 85-87 mph, but the Yanks’ Herb Raybourn was impressed by Rivera’s athleticism and smooth mechanics. On Feb. 17, 1990, Rivera agreed to a contract that included a signing bonus of $2,500. It turned out to be money well spent for the eventual all-time saves leader and baseball’s first unanimous Hall of Famer.”

2) Bernie Williams

Bernie was a scout’s dream: an athletic freak and a switch-hitter with lots of projectability. He starred in the Yankees’ dynasty years and had a long, successful career.

Hoch’s take: “Hailing from Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, Williams arrived on the Yankees’ radar in the mid-1980s, having played Little League and Babe Ruth League baseball against opponents like future Major Leaguers Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez. A gold-medal track athlete, Williams was noticed by Yankees scout Roberto Rivera and signed a pro contract on his 17th birthday, dispatched to a baseball camp in Connecticut. So began a career that would see the switch-hitter tally 2,336 Major League hits and compile a .297/.381/.477 slash line with a 125 OPS+, winning four World Series rings.”

3) Robinson Canó

Cano’s swing is a thing of beauty. That’s what scouts that signed him saw, and that swing took him over a long, fruitful MLB career and an extremely lucrative free agent contract with the Seattle Mariners.

Hoch’s take: “Canó attended three years of school in Newark, N.J., before returning to his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, where he drew the attention of Yankees scout Victor Mata. The son of Jose Canó — who pitched briefly in the Astros, Braves and Yankees organizations — Canó merited a signing bonus in the $100,000 range and was viewed as a solid but unspectacular prospect as he began his rise through the farm system. Four years later, Canó made his Major League debut in 2005 and would bat .309/.355/.504 with a 126 OPS+ through his nine seasons in New York, earning five All-Star selections and two Gold Glove Awards.”

4) Orlando Hernandez

“El Duque” Hernandez was another member of the dynasty years. His unorthodox pitching style and windup, not to mention the excellent results he got on the mound, made him a widely recognized figure in the late nineties and early 2000s for the New York Yankees.

“If you ask Brian Cashman who was the best signing of his tenure, the Yankees general manager does not hesitate to identify “El Duque,” who agreed to a four-year, $5.6 million contract after defecting from Cuba prior to the 1998 season. Hernández’s arsenal, polished over a decade of service for Industriales of Havana and the Cuban National team, helped produce a 61-40 record and 3.96 ERA (116 ERA+) over 139 games with the Yankees from ‘98-2004,” Hoch wrote.

5) Hideki Matsui

If it weren’t for an odd voters’ decision to give Angel Berroa the award, Hideki Matsui would have been the American League Rookie of the Year in 2003. After years of dominating in Japan, he mashed in the bigs and capped his career with the 2009 World Series.

“Matsui was already an established star when he arrived in New York at age 29 for the 2003 season, having slugged 332 homers over a decade with the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Central League. Initially signed to a three-year, $21 million deal, Matsui’s production translated to the Majors, as he compiled a .292/.370/.482 slash line with a 123 OPS+ over seven seasons with the Yankees from 2003-09. “Godzilla” had a remarkable final game in pinstripes, driving in six runs in the clinching Game 6 of the 2009 World Series and earning Most Valuable Player honors,” Hoch said.