International free agency will take on a whole new look this year thanks to the recently agreed upon Collective Bargaining Agreement between the MLB and the Players’ Association. Gone are the days where teams can pony up exhorbitant sums to sign a prospect like Yoan Moncada, as now there are hard caps in place to limit how much each team can spend on international amateurs. Here is how the new spending caps break down, according to Baseball America:
- Most teams get a bonus pool of $4.75 mil that they can use to sign international prospects. Some teams classified as “small market” or “small revenue” can receive pools of either $5.25 mil or $5.75 mil.
- Teams can make trades to acquire up to 75% of their bonus pool allotment. So, if a team has a bonus pool of $4.75 mil, they can add an additional $3.56 mil by trading with other teams to make their total pool amount roughly $8.31 mil. A team can deal away 100% of its bonus pool, if it is so inclined.
- Bonuses of $10,000 or less are exempt from bonus pool totals. Players that are 25 or older and have played six or more years in a foreign baseball league are also exempt from bonus pool restrictions.
Our own Milwaukee Brewers were relatively active on the international market last year, although rather than breaking the bank to sign one player for a huge sum the club chose to spread the money around and bring in a plurality of young prospects. The two most notable were outfielder Pablo Abreu ($800K) and infielder Jean Carlos Carmona ($725K), and the club also swooped in to sign shortstop Antonio Pinero ($375K) after his contract with the Red Sox was voided when it was learned that the Sox had been circumventing the previous bonus pool rules.
Milwaukee had a bonus pool of roughly $4.1 mil to dole out last season. This year, the Brewers will have a pool of $5.25 mil to work with (potentially up to $9.18 mil with trades) under the new rules when the international free agent signing period begins on July 2nd. Major League Baseball’s annual two-day international amateur showcase begins today in the Dominican Republic, and according to Ben Badler of Baseball America our local nine is once again set to be an active player on the market:
Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Mets, Mariners, Brewers all expected to be active signing 2017 international prospects: https://t.co/0BAiq2rvBq— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) February 21, 2017
The linked article in Badler’s tweet is behind the paywall at Baseball America, but within it the Brewers are linked specifically to two players who are reportedly expected to receive seven-figure bonuses - outfielders Larry Ernesto of the Dominican Republic and Carlos Rodriguez of Venezuela.
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com also recently previewed some of the top names to watch for as we move towards this year’s J2 signing period:
Diowill Burgos, OF, Dominican Republic | Stir Candelario, OF, Dominican Republic
Johnny David, OF, Dominican Republic | Larry Ernesto, OF, Dominican Republic
Luis Feliz, SS, Dominican Republic | Daniel Flores, C, Venezuela
Wander Franco, SS, Dominican Republic | Luis Garcia, SS, Dominican Republic
Leonardo Jimenez, SS, Panama | Jelfry Marte, SS, Dominican Republic
Ronny Mauricio, SS, Dominican Republic | Juan Querecuto, INF, Venezuela
Juan Pie, OF, Dominican Republic | Alberto Rodriguez, OF, Dominican Republic
Julio Rodriguez, OF, Dominican Republic | Yorlis Rodriguez, INF, Cuba
A whopping 11 teams are still subject to signing restrictions for eschewing their bonus pool restrictions under the old rules. The franchises that are barred signing any player to a bonus larger than $300K include Kansas City, St. Louis, San Diego, Cincinnati, Oakland, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco, and Washington. If Slingin’ David Stearns is looking to add some additional money to his bonus pool, any of those clubs would probably be one to start a dialogue with.
As things stand currently, Milwaukee is once again set to begin the 2017 season with the league’s lowest major league payroll at roughly $62.5 mil. While the Brewers have re-invested some of their savings into upgrades at Miller Park and are currently working to purchase the high-A Carolina Mudcats, it would be nice to see the team invest some significant money into signing several of the top international amateurs that will become available this summer.