Thanks to the year-round work of people like Ben Badler over at Baseball America, we have a pretty clear sense already of how the international signing period has kicked off. Although this is technically an 11-month period, many teams will be mostly done with their international signings after today.
Of course, that’s largely because there’s a cap on how much each team can spend. Because teams are limited to their league-allotted international spending pool, we end up with a fairly egalitarian distribution of prospects to the 30 MLB teams. That said, there are still different approaches.
The Nationals, for instance, in typical Nationals fashion, identified a star and did everything in their power to sign him. They’ll end up with one of the smaller classes of international free agents in the league, but they got their guy in Cuban outfielder Cristhian Vaquero. Still, though they spent the bulk of their money on Vaquero, they spread around the remainder, currently with a list of ten new players for their system.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Orioles have continued to spread their money around with large classes of international signees. They have more than 20 new farmhands as of today, headlined by the 18th-ranked prospect of this class (per Baseball America), outfielder Braylin Tavera out of the Dominican Republic.
Of course, volume in this case presupposes foregoing a certain degree of quality. Or at least, it would, if scouting were a linear and objective process (it absolutely is not). The frustrating truth is: What we can’t know about the future of these players far outweighs what we do know.
Still, of the players who sign today, among them are future superstars. For example, let’s go back to 2018, when the Blue Jays signed Orelvis Martinez for $3.5MM, now one of their top prospects who is quickly approaching the Majors. The Dodgers signed catching prospect Diego Cartaya, whose presence made the trade of Keibert Ruiz all the more palatable. Ruiz, of course, was the centerpiece of the deal that brought Max Scherzer to Los Angeles at the trade deadline. Ruiz himself was part of the Dodgers’ international signing class in 2014.
Other future top prospects joined their current clubs on that 2018 signing day as well, players like catcher Francisco Alvarez of the Mets, who signed for $2.7MM, and Marco Luciano, signed by the Giants for $2.6MM.
The most impact doesn’t always come from the top of the class, of course, as Ronald Acuna Jr. continually reminds us. He signed with the Braves for $100K on signing day back in 2014. Juan Soto signed with the Nationals the next year for $1.5MM, a significant, but hardly groundbreaking sum.
The point is a simple one, perhaps an obvious one: today marks an important day for the game of baseball and its future stars, one that will undoubtedly change the sport, even if we can’t see exactly how.