International players have been an important aspect of free agency over the past few years and that trend has continued this season with Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas and Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang. There are a couple of others that recently hit the scene and could be in the MLB next season.
The latest is Japanese infielder Takashi Toritani, who was previously garnering interest from the San Diego Padres, New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays. The Pads have yet to make him an offer after their uncharacteristically active offseason that wielded a number of talented players and the Mets have "no plans to pursue" him. The Blue Jays are still intrigued, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, but they have limited resources after an active offseason of their own.
Given all this information, the window is closing on Toritani because his Japanese Club, the Hanshin Tigers, are reportedly not going to spend much longer waiting for him to sign with an MLB team. Charlie Caskey of the Vancouver Sun provides some insight on the matter:
"If there's one thing I remember from my time in Japan, it's that the baseball is far more structured. The Tigers will want to know who is playing where, prior to flying to their spring training facility. That leaves little time for Takashi. A source in Japan heard that a decision should be forthcoming middle of the month, which is really just a week away."
"With three odd weeks to go before spring training though, Toritani is going to need to start weighing up his offers sharpish. As, according to this report, Hanshin are starting make alternative plans."
So unless Toritani is dead set on coming to the MLB, it's possible he stays with the Tigers if he is presented with offers in the near future.
Another international player is gaining a lot of attention as well. Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada was declared a free agent by the MLB back in November and he arrived in the U.S. early in December. He's still waiting for clearance from the Office of Foreign Asset and Control to officially work in the United States and begin private workouts with MLB clubs, and it was reported on December 23rd that it could be happening within the next two weeks. Perhaps there's a bit of a holdup, but in the meantime Baseball America provides a new video and analysis of the 19-year-old.
Earlier in the offseason when Moncada left Cuba and established residency in Guatemala, Baseball America also provided a list of teams that might be considering the switch-hitting youngster. The Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels were among those clubs, which provides an interesting case for serious demand and market competition for Moncada. He's expected to land a record $30 million to $40 million signing bonus for an international amateur player.
"He played in both [Cuban Junior National Leagues] and dominated both, pretty much on par with what Jorge Soler and Yasiel Puig did," says Ben Badler of Baseball America. "This is a guy that has plus speed, he can run; he has at least a plus arm ... you look at the bat speed that he has, it's very rare bat speed. You don't find many guys with that quickness ... he has above average raw power too."
Once the U.S. government issues clearance for Moncada, we can at least expect the Braves, Red Sox, Yankees, Giants, Rays, Padres and Cubs to check in on him since those were the teams that attended his batting showcase in November.