Here are 10 things to know about the start of MLB's international signing period
The international signing period is upon us, and already the Braves, Reds, and Padres have made splashes
Saturday marked the start of the July 2 international signing period for MLB.
Starting July 2 and running through June 15 of 2017, teams are eligible to sign any player who turns 17 before Sept. 1 of this year or will turn 17 during his first professional season. As well, teams can also sign players who have already reached their 17th birthdays but have yet to sign affiliated professional contracts. Players from anywhere other than the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico (players from these three places are funneled into the June draft) are available to be signed.
Under the current arrangement, major-league organizations are given initial bonus pools of $2.9 million, which are then adjusted upward or downward based on the team's finish in 2015. Teams are also allowed to trade bonus pool money. For the 2016-17 signing period, the Phillies had the highest bonus pool at just more than $5.6 million.
Of course, teams regularly overshoot these bonus caps, and doing so entails penalties. Those penalties vary according to how badly the team blew past the upper bound of its budget and include taxes and limits on signing any player for more than $300,000 in future signing periods (more on the Red Sox's situation below).
Anyhow, we're off and running for the 2016-17 period, so let's take a look at some key takeaways ...
1. The Braves signed the consensus best player available.
On Saturday, the Braves reportedly inked Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan for $4.25 million. He's a switch-hitter with a strong throwing arm and plenty of power upside. He's probably bound for third base at some point, but the bat will definitely play at a corner. Some footage ...
And now for the probably too lofty comparisons ...
Heard couple of rather auspicious comparisons for Maitan: Miggy and Chipper. Hey, just telling you what I've heard. https://t.co/PTAr76B7TK— David O'Brien (@DOBrienAJC) February 15, 2016
2. And the Braves weren't done.
Besides Maitan, the Braves also inked four other players on MLB.com's list of the top 30 prospects available during the 2016-17 international signing period. They are ...
- No. 18 Abrahan Guttierez (C, Venezuela, $3.5 million)
- No. 19 Yunior Severino (SS, Dominican Republic, $1.9 million)
- No. 22 Yenci Pena (SS, Dominican Republic, $1 million)
- No. 24 Livan Soto (SS, Venezuela, $1 million)
So all of this talent will be added to what was already one of the best farm systems in all of baseball.
3. The Reds paid out the biggest single bonus.
The Reds leaped past their $5.16 bonus pool in one shot, as they reportedly signed Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez to a $7 million bonus. Here's a look at his game ...
Rodriguez, 21, is a slick fielder who'll stick at shortstop, but he needs work at the plate. Consider this one to be a dubious investment at these levels.
4. The Padres had a very good day.
The Padres have reportedly come to terms with six players on MLB.com's list. They are ...
- No. 3 Luis Almanzar (SS, Dominican Republic, $4 million)
- No. 5 Gabriel Arias (SS, Venezuela, $1.9 million)
- No. 9 Jeisson Rosario (OF, Venezuela, $1.85 million)
- No. 15 Jordy Barley (SS, Dominican Republic, $1 million)
- No. 27 Justin Lopez (SS, Venezuela, $1.2 million)
- No. 28 Tirso Ornelas (OF, Mexico, $1.5 million)
Needless to say, the Pads far exceeded their $3.35 million bonus pool for 2016-17 and will pay steep penalties next time around. Still, after the system-gutting trades made prior to the 2015 season, the Padres badly needed to inject some upside into the lower levels. They've very likely done just that.
Your thoughts, Ben Badler of Baseball America?
Huge day for the Padres. They agreed to sign eight of the Top 50 international prospects, including 3 of the top 6: https://t.co/n8KtxKyNHZ— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) July 2, 2016
He of course references the Baseball America list, which is different from the MLB rankings. However, look through either lens, and you'll see that the Padres had a big day.
5. The A's were also busy.
The Athletics appear to have landed three prospects on MLB.com's top 30 ledger. Most notably, they inked Cuban outfielder Lazarito Armenteros to a $3 million pact. He was ranked fourth by MLB.com. Also headed to the A's are Dominican shortstop Yerdeluis Vargas (No. 21, $1.5 million) and fellow Dominican shortstop Marcos Brito (No. 23, $1.1 million).
6. In all, five teams reportedly signed multiple players from the MLB.com top-30 list.
Those teams are the Padres (six), Braves (five), Athletics (three), Phillies (two), and Brewers (two). So far, the Reds, Astros, Rangers, Cardinals, Nationals, and Mariners have each signed one player from the top 30.
7. The Red Sox took their medicine.
As noted recently in this space, the Red Sox have been penalized for their tactics during the last signing period. Those tactics, which go beyond merely exceeding the bonus pool, are detailed here.
The broader consequence is that five players the Sox signed last period will have their contracts voided and be available to sign with another team this time around. Most notably, Venezuelan outfielders Albert Guaimaro and Simon Muzziotti were ranked by Baseball America as the 15th- and 24th-best players, respectively, on the market last time around. They're aren't available to sign just yet, but once MLB ties up the loose ends they'll be free to sign.
8. The best player yet to sign is probably Cuban right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez.
Gutierrez, 20, is probably the best arm of the 2016-17 period. The moving pictures ...
The Cubs, Dodgers, and Astros have reportedly been active in scouting Gutierrez, but he's surely of serious interest to almost any club with a willingness to pay the going rates. But he may not ink right away ...
RHP Vladimir Gutierrez, https://t.co/6DP5cSK3ww's No. 2 international prospect, is not expected to sign today, per league source.— Robert Murray (@RobertMurrayBBE) July 2, 2016
Needless to say, Venezuelan ballplayers are always a strong and coveted presence on the international market. This signing period, of course, unfolds alongside the ongoing economic upheaval in Venezuela.
Professional ballplayers and their families have long been targets of extortion and even kidnapping in their home country, and the worsening nature of things certainly explains this policy ...
As noted above, there's plenty of time left to sign plenty of remaining talent, and new signings are rolling in all the time. MLB.com's tracker and Baseball America's tracker will help keep you up to date on the 2016-17 international signing period.
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