The international signing period begins July 2nd. On that date teams will be allowed to sign players who fit certain criteria for up to an allotted value. Players that have spent 3 or more years playing on a professional team from their country or who are 23 or older are unrestricted free agents and spending caps don't apply to them. Much like with the first year player draft, this limit is a soft cap. Teams may go over, but are penalized according to how much they go over.
This article is a little outdated now, but it does a good job of outlining penalties:
0-5% = 75% tax on overage
5-10% = 75% tax on overage, limit of $500,000 per signing in next signing period
10-15% = 100% tax on overage, limit of $500,000 per signing in next signing period
15+% = 100% tax on overage, limit of $250,000 per signing in next TWO signing periods
The penalty limits are hard caps and teams are not allowed to go over them. This year the Rangers and Cubs are under such restrictions. They can't sign a single player for more than $250,000. They still retain their slot values, which I'll get into shortly, and so they can still trade them.
Teams are allotted their pool in a similarly convoluted manner to the first year player draft. Teams are giving four slot bonus values in reverse order of team record from the previous year. So the worst team ends up with the most money and the best team the least. Each team is also given a base of $700,000. So you add that to the four slot values and you have a teams total allotment.
The reason MLB does it this way is because those slot values can be traded. The one restriction is that a team may not acquire more than 50% of it's original pool. So if a team's total allotment is $1 million dollars, they can acquire up to half a million dollars. Even is a team were to acquire $1 million additional they could only spend that half million.
The Brewers total pool allotment is $2,611,800. They could acquire as much as $1,305,900 for a total of $3,917,700. There is reason to believe the Brewers will be looking to acquire additional money this year. They've been connected to top prospect Gilbert Lara. They're said to have an unofficial agreement with him for $3.2 million. If that's true (and it very likely is since it's been reported in multiple places by multiple people), the Brewers would either have to blow past their bonus pool by over 15% or acquire additional bonus money.
I expect they've been looking around in an attempt to get someone's slot bonus(es). The new signing period begins next Wednesday so it's possible we could hear something about this by then. As far as I know, they don't need the additional slot values at the time they sign the player so it's also possible we don't hear about them acquiring cap space until months down the road.
Either way, I do think we'll hear about the signing of Lara next week and quite possibly on Wednesday and that's pretty cool. This, and the international signings last year, show a marked change in philosophy from the Brewers front office. It's a much welcomed change. The international market is a great way to easily infuse talent into a farm system. Since there isn't a draft, theoretically any team can walk away with a top prospect. This year, one of those teams happens to be the Brewers (depending where you look: Lara is 4th on MLB.com's list and I thought 1st on Baseball America's list but I can't find their rankings and I don't have a sub there so I can't check, it might be here).
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