12:09pm: The Mesas are planning on hosting a showcase for all 30 teams in the near future, Sanchez further reports. He lists the Orioles ($6.5MM), Marlins ($4.3MM), Rays ($3.6MM) and Dodgers ($2.78MM) as the teams with the most remaining money to spend.
Of course, as we saw last offseason in the case of Shohei Ohtani, that picture can quickly shift should those teams (or any other interested suitor) pursue additional international spending allotments on the trade market. The eight clubs that under the $300K limitation mentioned below would likely be particularly amenable to parting with some pool space in exchange for minor league talent.
11:19am: Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa and his younger brother, Victor Mesa Jr., have been declared free agents by Major League Baseball and are now eligible to sign with a big league team, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (via Twitter). The brothers left Cuba in pursuit of Major League contracts back in May. Neither player meets MLB’s minimum age (25) or professional experience (six years) requirement to be considered a professional. As such, they’ll each be subject to international bonus pools.
While both are prospects of note, the elder Mesa brother is widely considered to be the top talent on this year’s international class, offering elite speed, a plus arm and a generally strong performance in his limited time as a professional in the Cuban National Series. At 22 years of age, he could already be advanced enough for a placement in Class-A Advanced or Double-A, per Baseball America’s Ben Badler, who tabs him as an elite center field defender and potential top-of-the-order bat.
In his most recent full season of play in Cuba, Victor Victor batted a hefty .354/.399/.539 with seven homers, 40 steals, 17 walks and just 19 strikeouts in 290 plate appearances. Scouting information on the 17-year-old Mesa Jr. is considerably more sparse, though he’ll presumably have no shortage of interest around the league. The brothers are the sons of Victor Mesa, a baseball legend in Cuba who enjoyed a 19-year career and has also served as the manager of Team Cuba in the World Baseball Classic on multiple occasions.
To this point, the Orioles and Marlins have been the two teams most heavily connected to Victor Victor Mesa. That pair still boasts the largest remaining signing pools, with the Orioles said at last check to have the largest pool available. And while the Orioles have a long history of sitting out the international amateur market, that philosophy has changed in recent months. Longtime owner Peter Angelos has largely ceded oversight of the club to his sons, John and Lou, and general manager Dan Duquette plainly stated after trading Manny Machado that the organization intended to begin investing in international amateurs.
As of early August, the Orioles’ max offering sat at a hefty $8.25MM following the acquisition of international funds in several summer trades, though they traded $750K of that sum away in a deal with the Phillies and have announced a handful of international prospect signings since that time as well. None of the prospects they signed were high-profile in nature, though, and the Marlins’ pool is lagging considerably behind at $4.35MM as of that Aug. 1 update.
Notably, there are eight teams — the Reds, A’s, Nationals, Braves, White Sox, Astros, Cardinals and Padres — that are in the international “penalty box” after shattering previous spending pools by more than 15 percent and are thus ineligible to sign a player for more than $300K. That, presumably, takes them out of the running in this picture.
It should also be noted that the 2017-21 CBA eliminated the possibility of exceeding the league-allotted bonus pool by any sum; teams are now hard-capped, though they can acquire up to 75 percent of their initial allotment in trades with other clubs. Full details on international signing rules can be seen in our most recent international prospect primer. To this point, the Blue Jays, Indians, Yankees and Mets have been among the more aggressive-spending teams on the 2018-19 international market, leaving them with relatively depleted pools.