The free agent market might be heating up during this week's Winter Meetings, but we're still seven months away from the start of the international signing period. Still, it isn't too early to know how much the Brewers will be working with in July, and the new CBA has some new rules when it comes to signing international free agents.
Beginning on July 2nd, every team will now have a hard cap when it comes to international signings. How much money a team has to spend depends on market size and which round a team's competitive balance pick (if applicable) falls. Ben Badler from Baseball America drew up this handy list of where every team falls.
The Brewers will have a total of $5.25 million to spend next summer, as part of the "middle" bonus group (division rival Cincinnati also falls into that group). The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates will have an extra half million to spend, falling into the $5.75 million bonus pool group by virtue of having a lower competitive balance pick than the Brewers -- under the new CBA, teams with a Competitive Balance "Round A" pick fall into the $5.25 million pool, while teams with a "Round B" pick end up in the $5.75 million pool. Jonathan Mayo confirmed today the Brewers will be in the “A” round. Everyone else in the league that doesn't qualify for a Competitive Balance pick -- which obviously includes the Chicago Cubs -- fall into a third bonus pool category with a $4.75 million cap.
A key thing to remember about international free agents under the new CBA: the age to determine whether a player is exempt from counting against the pool is going up. Now, a player has to be at least 25 years old with six seasons played in a professional league to not count against the hard cap. Most of those players would likely come from Cuba or Asia, and also means two-way Japanese superstar Shohei Otani likely won't come to MLB until 2019, unless he wants to accept $5.75 million as his maximum offer. Otani is coming off a season in which he struck out 174 batters in 140 innings with a 1.86 ERA while also hitting .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs in 382 plate appearances at the age of 21.
While there's a hard cap for international signings now, it's worth remembering signing bonuses of $10,000 or less don't count against that number. The international cap space can also be used as a trade chip in July once the market opens, with teams being allowed to trade portions of it in separate deals.
Teams acquiring more international pool space will be limited to trading for 75% of their original pool over the next two summers, and then 60% every year after 2018-2019. If you want numbers for context, that means as part of the $5.25 million group this year, the Brewers would be able to get up to nearly $9.2 million if they accept pool money in any possible trades next summer.
Statistics courtesy Baseball Reference