International Free Agents Rumors

McDaniel On International Bonus Pools

A number of teams are expected to break the bank on international talent next July, writes Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs.com. Due to international spending restrictions, teams that spend more than 15% above their allotted pool may not ink any international free agents for over $300,000 in the following two signing periods. However, there is growing consensus within the industry that an international draft will be implemented when baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement is re-visited after the 2016 season. If a draft is put in place, teams will have only two years to live with the current arrangement.

McDaniel’s sources have suggested that as many as 10 teams may blow past their limit when the next signing period begins on July 2. The Cubs, Blue Jays, and Phillies will “almost definitely” exceed their respective pools. As McDaniel notes, plans will likely be affected by verbal commitments as we get closer to July. Additionally, the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Angels have greatly exceeded their budgets during the current signing period, meaning they will be penalized during the next two periods.

If there truly are only two more years before a draft is implemented, then teams have an interesting “strategic choice.” At least four clubs – possibly five pending the outcome of the Yoan Moncada bidding – will be handicapped. More will spend heavily next summer, making themselves ineligible for big signings in 2016. If enough teams are aggressive, it could be advantageous to wait until 2016 for a spending spree. McDaniel also points out that the penalized teams are mostly those who usually spend a lot on international talent.

Put it all together, and it’s increasingly clear that clubs are unconcerned about the international bonus pool. While small market clubs may be loathe to pay excessive taxes (100% on overages), those theoretically get passed onto the player via a lower signing bonus. In my opinion, if most of the big spenders are excluded from the marketplace in 2016, then we could see some nontraditional sources of big bonuses.


International Moves: Dodgers, Liberato, Villatoro

We’ll keep track of the day’s international signings here…

  • The Dodgers announced the signings of four 17-year-olds from the Dominican Republic (via Twitter): outfielders Deivy Castillo and Ariel Sandoval, shortstop Ravel Hernandez, and right-hander Miguel Urena. Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times tweeted the age and positions of each player.
  • The Mariners signed Luis Liberato, a 17-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. Liberato obtains a $140K bonus. The 6'1" teenager has gap power with a solid swing and could stay in center field or move to right, according to Badler.
  • The Blue Jays signed 18-year-old right-hander Denis Villatoro to a five-year contract, Saúl Carranza of the Honduran newspaper Diez reported over the weekend (translation via MLBTR's Nick Collias). It's a five-year deal, according to La Tribuna. Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun notes that it's worth $20K (Twitter link). Villatoro, who worked out for the Blue Jays before signing, said he's "very happy" to have agreed to terms with Toronto, Carranza reports. His fastball reaches 93 mph, and he also drew interest from the Orioles, Yankees, Mets, Astros, Giants and Pirates.

International Notes: Blue Jays, Red Sox, Twins

A new set of rules and restrictions for the international prospect market will take effect less than two weeks from now, on July 2. Each team will be working with an annual budget of $2.9MM for international players starting next month. Here are the latest rumblings regarding the international prospect market, via Ben Badler of Baseball America:

  • The Blue Jays had seemed to be in the lead for Venezuelan right-hander Jose Mujica, but may not be as closely linked to him as expected, Badler writes. The Red Sox and Diamondbacks have also been linked to the 15-year-old Mujica, who's considered by many scouts to be the top pitching prospect available in Latin America. 
  • The Blue Jays are still favored to sign 16-year-old Venezuelan Franklin Barreto, according to Badler. Some teams consider Barreto the top available prospect, but he will likely move from shortstop to another position.
  • The Red Sox, Padres and Royals have been mentioned as possible teams of interest on Venezuelan left-hander Jose Castillo, Badler writes. Some view the Dodgers and Orioles as sleepers for Castillo, who’s expected to obtain a generous bonus.
  • The Twins are showing heavy interest in Dominican shortstop Amaurys Minier, according to Badler. The 16-year-old switch-hitter is expected to become one of the highest-paid Dominican prospects.
  • Some believe the Pirates are in on Dominican third baseman Julio de la Cruz.


Gammons On International Free Agents

Lots of interesting details in this write up by Peter Gammons on International free agents. Among the topics covered…

  • An investigation by MLB security into identification fraud could lead to the deportation of as many as 100 minor leaguers.
  • Money given to international free agents has more than tripled in past five years.
  • Gammons says the slotting system in the amateur draft doesn't work because the richer teams ignore the recommendations. However, because of revenue sharing, the small-market teams now have more money to give to international free agents.
  • The commissioner's office refuses to sign off on the signing of an unnamed fourth round pick (of a "small-market Central Division team") because the player and the team agreed to a contract above the commissioner's recommendation.
  • Gammons feels that the NCAA's new restrictions on scholarships, along with the lower signing bonuses, will drive more kids to football and basketball.
  • The highest bonus ever given to an international free agent was the $7MM given to Rolando Arrojo by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Gammons adds that Cuban baseball cards he received in 1994 showed several players, including Arrojo, to have ages much different than those listed with MLB.