Fresh off of wielding the biggest budget in the domestic amateur draft, the Astros are preparing once again to open the club's wallet for some high-risk, high-reward prospects. The 16-year old international signing period opens on July 2, and Houston will have an available bonus pool of $4.9MM to spend, the most in all of baseball. As GM Jeff Luhnow described it to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, the onset of the signing period "is basically a free-for-all." Luhnow continued: "From Monday at midnight and Tuesday at midnight, there will be about $20-30MM spent by the industry in that one day."
- As MLBTR's Marc Hulet explained earlier today, Baseball America's Ben Badler is a key source of information on the July 2 market. Expanding on his previous work, Badler released his list of the top thirty available prospects who are expected to sign just a few days from now. He also provides an excellent explanation of the way the market works. His top five players are Eloy Jimenez (outfielder, Dominican Republic), Gleyber Torres (shortstop, Venezuela), Rafael Devers (third baseman, D.R.), Luis Encarnacion (third baseman, D.R.), and Leonardo Molina (center fielder, D.R.).
- One international prospect who will not go through the draft process is 26-year-old Cuban righty Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. As the recently-declared free agent awaits government authorization to begin negotiating a deal, he has already been heavily scouted by interested clubs. MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez notes (via Twitter) that he expects Gonzalez to sign quickly once the government clears him.
- Meanwhile, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler — who reported that Gonzalez could get as much as $60MM on a five-year pact — tweets that the Dodgers could be planning to "go all out" to sign the hurler. Peter Gammons, likewise, said on Twitter that there were many teams interested but that "the bets are still on the Dodgers."
- The deep pockets of Los Angeles, along with the broad interest of many big league clubs, could drive a substantial price for Gonzalez. A reported 45 scouts were on hand to watch him throw for the Tijuana Toros, writes Knobler. Teams that sent representatives included the Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Angels. Knobler says that scouts have estimated a Gonzalez signing bonus at anywhere from $40MM to $60MM and above.