Possible pool party looms
Don’t be surprised if teams that exceed their international bonus pool – or have exceeded it already – sign multiple Cuban prospects before the June 15 deadline.
The rules bear a similarity to the rules regarding draft-pick compensation system for major-league free agents. Once a team signs a player, it might as well keep going – provided, of course, that it has the money.
Major-league free agents cost additional draft picks in successively lower rounds. A team that exceeds its international bonus pool must pay a 100 percent tax and endure a two-year ban for signing players over $300,000 – and it is the latter stipulation that could spur additional spending.
A team that cannot enter the market in a meaningful way for two years might choose to invest its savings immediately, even if means paying even more in taxes.
The Diamondbacks, in theory, could be such a team.
By signing Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez to an $8.25 million bonus, they already have exceeded their budget on international players who are under 23 and have not played five years in a recognized professional league.
The D-Backs next could pursue Cuban second baseman Andy Ibanez, a player in whom they have interest, according to major-league sources. Such a strategy, however, appears unlikely – the D-Backs are "tapped out" after signing Lopez and Cuban third baseman/outfielder Yasmany Tomas to a six-year, $68.5 million deal, sources say (Tomas, 24, was not subject to the international bonus pool).
The wealthier Dodgers, who have yet to exceed their international pool, offer perhaps a better example of how a team can maneuver through the system.
If the Dodgers had signed Lopez, a player they aggressively tried to sign, they may have been even more inclined to make a serious run at infielder/outfielder Yoan Moncada. And if they end up with Moncada, they may be more inclined to add other international players as well.
The Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Rays are the other teams that already have entered the penalty phase and cannot sign international players over $300,000 for the next two years. Other teams are pondering whether to exceed their limits, but want to make sure they can get multiple players first, according to one agent.
Clubs also could decide to spend big internationally for another reason – the current collective-bargaining agreement expires on Dec. 1, 2016, in the middle of what would be the second year of the ban on signing players for over $300,000 (the signing period runs from July 2 to June 15).
An international draft or some other plan could replace the current system, eliminating the penalties and allowing teams to re-enter the market.