For a long time the Brewers were inactive in the international market. But in recent years they've made a concerted effort to reverse that trend. In 2013 they signed Franly Mallen and Nicolas Pierre to what at the time was a club record $700,000 each. Then last year they blew that figure out of the water by signing one of the top international propsects, Gilbert Lara, to a $3.1 million contract. If they're going to continue upping their international game, they might have to go over pool.
Baseball America recently released this year's international bonus pools. The Brewers are 16th among clubs with $2,389,300. Last year they had a pool of $2,611,800. That's only a difference of $222,500 but for these types of signings that can be significant.
Teams can go over their pools if they so choose. They face different levels of penalties based on how much they go over. The important difference is that clubs that go over their bonus pools by more than 5% are restricted in the next signing period by not being allowed to sign prospects for more than $300,000 (this figure is from last year and may now be slightly higher). Teams that go over by more than 15% are restricted in the next two signing periods. The Diamondbacks, Angels, Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees face such restrictions for the 2015-2016 signing period.
There is one way around these penalties. A team's draft pool is made up of 4 slot values. Each of these slots is tradeable. A team is allowed to acquire additional pool space equal to half their original bonus pool. So if a team were to have a $1 million bonus pool they could acquire another half a million for a total pool of $1.5 million. If said team were to acquire a slot value worth more than half a million, the additional value would be lost.
That means the Brewers can acquire an additional $1,194,650 for a total of $3,583,950. They could spend up to 5% more than their pool without being restricted in future signing periods. Without trading for cap space that means they could spend up to $2,508,765. With trading for an addition 50% of their original cap space they could spend up to $3,763,147.50.
Without trading for cap space it seems unlikely the Brewers will be able to get another top prospect like Gilbert Lara without going over that 5% and facing signing restrictions in future signing periods. However the dynamic is changing and it might not be possible to sign one of the top international prospects without going over that 5% even if they trade for cap space.
The next collective bargaining agreement will be formed sometime in 2016. The prevailing theory is that an international draft will be created then and instituted as early as 2017. If that becomes reality then there will be two more international signing periods (2015-2016 and 2016-2017) between now and then.
With that in mind, many teams are blowing way past their bonus pools to sign as much talent as they can before a draft can be instituted. I have no idea if the Brewers are planning on doing this, but they have shown interest in Yadier Alvarez. He's the top pitching prospect available and possibly the top overall prospect. If the Brewers want to get him, they'd likely have to spend much more than their allotted bonus pool.
The Brewers did show a willingness to spend between $12-15 million for Yoan Moncada. If they're willing to spend that much during the 2015-2016 signing period there is a reasonable chance they can walk away with Yadier Alvarez and another top prospect or two. It's something I'm very interested to see play out.