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This weekend, an 18-year-old pitcher from Japan named Shohei Otani announced that he would be foregoing an opportunity to be drafted in the NPB (Japan’s professional baseball league), and instead would be coming straight to the United States. The announcement was unprecedented – there has never before been a candidate to be a top pick in the NPB draft who decided to forego that opportunity in favor of MLB.

Given Otani’s skills and stature – he stands 6’4″ and throws 99-100 m.p.h. – you can understand both his interest in seeking an earlier payday in the U.S., and MLB teams’ interest in landing the young righty.

Sounds like a perfect target for the Cubs, yes? After all, they are pitching starved and have money to burn at the amateur level.

If only it were that simple.

Because Otani has not played in Japan, he is considered a true international amateur free agent, which means his signing would be subject to the new rules regarding international signings. Recall, for the 2012-2013 signing period (begins in early July and ends in mid-June)

Per the new CBA, the penalties for busting your international signing pool are at once similar to, and starkly different from, the penalties for busting your amateur draft pool. The gist, from Baseball America:

Every team has a $2.9 million signing bonus pool for the 2012-13 signing period. Any team that spends more than $2.9 million will be subject to a variety of penalties:

• Teams that go 0-5 percent over will pay a 75 percent tax on the overage.

• Teams that go 5-10 percent over will pay the 75 percent tax on the overage and won’t be able to sign more than one player for a bonus of more than $500,000 in the 2013-14 signing period.

• Teams that go 10-15 percent over will pay a 100 percent tax on the overage and won’t be able to sign any player for a bonus of more than $500,000 in the 2013-14 signing period.

• Teams that go 15 percent or more over will pay a 100 percent tax on the overage and won’t be able to sign any player for a bonus of more than $250,000 in the 2013-14 signing period.

In sum, busting your pool doesn’t prohibit you from signing international players in the future – it just restricts the price tag of, and thus caliber of, the players you can sign. That said, it’s reasonable to believe that, if a team is going to go balls out to sign Otani, they’re going to blow past their $2.9 million cap by far more than 15%. For a number of teams, it would be worth the penalty. The Cubs are already near their $2.9 million cap for the year. Would they risk the penalty? I doubt it.

The best players in a given international class – the ones to whom you’d compare first round draft picks – all sign for well over $250K, even in the newly-restricted environment. In other words, if a team blows its pool in 2012-2013 (this year), it will not be able to sign any of the top players in 2013-2014 (next year) – and that’s true regardless of how much the team in question has available in its pool. The Cubs will have something just shy of $4.8 million to spend in 2013-2014 (we don’t know the precise amount yet, but they’ll have the second highest amount, and the highest amount is $4.8 million), so blowing their cap this year could cause a huge problem next year – it isn’t easy to find 15 to 20 quality prospects worth around $250K apiece, but no more, and 46 $100K prospects (if you could even land that many and had four extra minor league teams (and coaching staffs) on which to play and develop them) is not necessarily better than a few $1.5 million prospects. You’re getting the idea.

While the average international class in a given year is not comparable in talent to the average U.S. draft class, the two aren’t that far off. Would you really want the Cubs to have to sit out the first couple rounds of a hypothetical draft (one in which they had, like, six selections in the first two rounds) so that they could get Otani, alone?

I don’t think I would.

It’s an unfortunate byproduct of the new CBA, which, on the one hand favors the Cubs next year, with a large spending pool, but disfavors them with that same pool – the Cubs have more to lose than most teams by busting through their cap this year. A team that will receive just $1.7 million next year (the lowest amount, around which the best teams this year will receive) can far more easily risk busting their cap this year, because, other than the tax, it might have no tangible impact on what they would have done in the 2013-2014 signing period anyway.

Fiddle sticks.

So, at this point, I don’t see much of a way around this: we have to hope that Otani waits until July to sign. At that point, the Cubs would be in the second best position to sign him, and could possibly even be in a better position to bust their pool, if need be (of course, if the Cubs suck in 2013, they’ll again have a big pool in 2014, and the problem would start anew … ). If he signs before July – which, let’s be honest, is a strong probability – it’s likely to be with a large-market team like the Dodgers or Rangers. They have as much money to spend now, and have much, much less to lose next year. Even if no team is willing to blow its budget to sign Otani, the Cubs have almost no pool money left to spend this year.

In other words, for Otani and the Cubs, it’s probably next July or bust.

UPDATE: BA’s Jim Callis just did a Q&A addressing this very issue, and basically said the same things – Otani is likely to sign before July, and teams will probably be willing to bust their international pool for him.

  • http://worldseriesdreaming.com/ Rice Cube

    Thanks for writing this, my questions were basically how good this kid actually was and how much the Cubs had left to spend after this summer’s international signings. I don’t know whether Otani will actually wait that long to sign so the Cubs may have to kiss this one goodbye…

  • CubFan Paul

    Otani surely will wait. By waiting 8-9months he easily score $2-$3Million more guaranteed dollars. It’s all about the money.

    • JB88

      Why does he need to wait? As long as you have one team willing to blow through the international spend threshold and bear the penalty, Otani will be able to land as much now as he would in 8-9 months.

  • WGNstatic

    I asked this yesterday, but my comment was buried in an older post…

    Does anyone know how much different teams have left in their 2012 international signing cap space?

    The reason I ask, is that it might be reasonable for Otani to wait until July to sign. Now, if a number of teams have $$ left, he would be best off signing now. But, if everyone has used up most of their $$ the incentive for him to wait would seem obvious. The downside of course is losing 4-5 months of experience, coaching, etc. in the U.S. system, which shouldn’t be understated. But, certainly if he were to wait teams such as the Cubs might just be willing to give him a lot more than he will be able to get right now.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I think you are missing the main idea here: the Dodgers could spend $30 million on him tomorrow. Why would he wait until next July because the Cubs can’t spend $4 million until then?

      • CubFan Paul

        I’m lost.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          What’s unclear? The Dodgers could spend $30 million on him (however much they want) and sign him immediately. He doesn’t have to wait until July to get the biggest bucks if there’s a team willing to blow through its cap this year. And, given the toothlessness of the penalties on teams who’ll have small budgets next year anyway, I can see a team like the Dodgers, just as an example, blowing through their cap to get him.

          • CubFan Paul

            But wouldn’t the dodgers have to pay the overages of $27plus million?

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Yes. But, according to them, they have money to throw around.

              (And I’m not saying they’d actually spend $30 million – I was just picking some super high number as an example that blows the field away.)

              • ncsujuri

                Didn’t the Dodgers spend a good chunk this year already w/ the other Cuban OFer? (Puig I think)

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  Yes, they paid him $42 million. Pre-new-restrictions, though.

                  • ncsujuri

                    And didn’t we spend ours on Concepcion & Soler pre new restrictions as well?

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      Yes. Then spent most the pool amount on Paniagua and De La Rosa after the restrictions kicked in.

                  • Cubbie Blues

                    So, what’s the big deal between $4.8M and $1.7M if a team is willing to pay $42M on Puig.

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      ?

                      The signing restrictions are now in place … ?

                      (I don’t understand the point you’re making.)

                    • Cubbie Blues

                      The point I was (well attempting) to make is the if the most a team could possibly have is $4.8M and a team was willing to sign one player for $42M, that maximum amount that we now have is very miniscule. I just don’t think it was well thought out. I say the Cubs should blow their budget every other year. The only downside is if in the year we can’t sign a big player it is a really big player.

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      Well, part of the reason he got $42 million was because these restrictions were coming – not because Puig is actually a $42 million player. Four years ago, who knows how much he would have gotten? $5 million? $10 million? That would have been the absolute top of the market. Even four years ago, spending $4.8 million internationally would have been a very healthy amount.

                    • Cubbie Blues

                      My point being that a team was willing to spend that much over the limit for any player not that particular player or dollar amount. I just don’t think the restrictions are tough enough to keep teams from blowing the budget to get the player they want. It’s a guaranteed player they want rather than getting 5 Theriots (I know he wasn’t an international player).

                    • Featherstone

                      You’re missing the point Cubbie. They didnt spend that much over the limit because there was no limit when they were signed. Now that there is deals of those sizes wont happen anymore.

              • CubFan Paul

                I’m still lost-ish. Why pay 100% of that hypothetical overage ($27M)

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  Why did the Cubs pay $7 million for Concepcion or $30 million for Soler?

                  To get the player.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    I’ll stay lost and wait for him to sign. July is my prediction.

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      Still very well could happen for any number of reasons that aren’t known to us now.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      I feel like I need more coffee to understand this. It shouldn’t be this hard to recruit young talent

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      The new rules were designed to make it more difficult.

          • J Wilson

            These regs are so weak, why even implement them in the first place? Who spearheaded this, Kofi Annan?

      • WGNstatic

        I see what you are saying, but I am skeptical that a team will be willing to go all that high, we will see.

        The 100% luxury tax is pretty brutal. On top of that the signing team would miss out on signing anyone of significance next year. If I had to guess, I would think that the 5% threshold will be a pretty firm ceiling, as we saw in the draft. We will see how willing teams are to make such a big investment in a H.S. pitcher.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          And that’s a totally plausible outcome – we’re all pretending like we really know how much teams value Otani, and we don’t really know. The point here was simply what leads up to the conclusion: for Cubs fans, we have to hope – for whatever reason – he doesn’t sign until July (if the Cubs want him at all, that is). Because if he signs in the next few months, it’s impossible to see it being with the Cubs.

          • WGNstatic

            Here’s the thing, the difference between the high end and low end is about a million bucks, so, if the “market” determines that he is worth $30M (yes, I know that was meant as hyberbole), then the Cubs really have little more to lose in signing him for those kinds of $$ than anyone else. Even if you knock that number down to $5M, or, really anything much over $2.7M, then the Cubs don’t really have all that much more to lose than anyone else.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              You’re going to have to go into more detail on that. High end and low end of what? There’s a whole paragraph in the article about what the Cubs have to lose (which is, to me, quite clear – but stuff is always clear when you’re the one who wrote it), which is considerably more than some other teams. Where did we get crossed up?

              • WGNstatic

                Sorry I wasn’t more clear. If the Cubs blow through the cap, it costs them all of their cap space for next year. If the Nationals do the same, it would cost them all of their cap. The difference between those two numbers, if I understand correctly, is about $1.2 million.

                So, by that sense, it would “cost” the Cubs ~$1.2M more to blow through he cap. If he is indeed worth, per the market, anything over, say $5M, then the relative cost to the Cubs goes down. Does that make more sense?

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  Yes. But I think you have the numbers wrong – the Cubs’ pool next year is expected to be around $4.6 million, while the Nats’ will be around $1.7 million. And the cap isn’t “gone,” it’s just that you have to divvy it up among lesser players (you could still do quite well, but your options are restricted).

                  That said, your principle is correct – but the Cubs’ cost will always be higher. If he’s “worth” $5 million, he’ll “cost” the Cubs more (in the form of the restrictions being more painful to them than almost any other team) than every team except the Astros. Since it’s relative, that doesn’t change, no matter how much he’s worth. Of course, if he’s “worth” $50 million, then, yes, it becomes less important to worry about the relative difference (because it shrinks relative to the total cost (too many uses of “relative” there …)).

                  (The short version of all of that is: yes, you are correct.)

  • http://worldseriesdreaming.com/ Rice Cube

    I’d like to think that he would wait to earn the most money as CubFan Paul suggested, but WGN makes a good point about the downtime which is what I was also concerned with. He probably has a good trainer and support system though so that’s most likely a minor issue to deal with for that extra million.

  • TWC

    So it the Cubs go hog wild and blow past their allotment this year to sign this kid (which may range from a fool’s errand to impossible, depending on Otani’s actual abilities and/or whims), effectively spending $2 for every $1, there’s no stopping them from continuing to do this until July, correct? They *could*, in fact, preemptively pick up all the big names in the international market before other teams’ allotments reset in July, spending many millions (>$100m, possibly, half of which are penalties to MLB), and then essentially sit out the 2013-2014 signing period, right? I mean, if you’re going to do something, go all the way, right?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Most of the top players in this class have already signed. There aren’t any big names left to sign until July 2, 2013 (when the next 16/17-year-olds are eligible to sign).

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        In future years, however, there is little to stop a team from doing as you propose, so long as they are willing to pay the tax, and restrict their signings in the next year. (And assuming they could get all the studly prospects to sign with them in the first couple weeks of July.)

        • TWC

          Yeah, it’s more of a hypothetical than anything else — at least this year. I’m not a prospect hound, so I can’t tell you what the current field of int’l prospects looks like (or future years, really).

          It really seems like this current arrangement is killer for successful teams to exploit, though. They know that next year’s FA pool is going to be a relative pittance — why not blow it all on one name, rather than a half-dozen or so mediocre kids?

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            In the process of writing this article, that’s where I landed, too. Still waiting for someone to explain to me the flaw in our thinking.

            • http://worldseriesdreaming.com/ Rice Cube

              So after sifting through the lawyerese, if the Cubs were to break the bank on Otani, would their tax penalty and expenditure cap penalty expire before the 2014 international signing period? If they’re only missing a year’s worth of lottery tickets it might not be so bad, but the extent of the penalty would weigh a lot in the decision process.

              For the most part it’s just money and I’m guessing the Cubs still have enough of it to burn.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                It’s just one year. But, keep in mind, the Cubs will have a huge cap next year – so that “one year” would be a particularly painful year in which to be impeded.

                • http://worldseriesdreaming.com/ Rice Cube

                  Yeah, in that case I do hope Otani waits :D

                • Rizzo 44

                  I think your correct Brett. If Theo/Jed sign him then they must be planning to turn the team around soon. I think with what they have done already says this is not something Theo would do with the roster the way it looks right now. I agree that if we had a low number in 2013 they would more than likely sign him, but with the total they will have I feel they wont. I would like to see them sign Otani, but I don’t see it. 2013 will be much like 2012 I think and thats sad, because we looked bad in every area. Castro, Rizzo, and Shark thats all to be excited about at the MLB level. SAD

    • DarthHater

      I like the way you think.

    • ron

      That would ne expensive but I get it. what happens to the “tax” money? Is it shifted to a collective pool where other teams can draw from it for the next years signings? So you are effectively giving your competitor more money? I guess it wouldn’t matter if you already signed the top talent.

    • http://wavesoftalent.webs.com tim

      Except, most of them are long-gone.

      Team Theo will be happy to be “in line” for the next Aroldis/Soler/Otanmi next season. And, likely, the one after that. Paniagua should make it a really good class already.

  • BeyondFukudome

    So, what you seem to be saying is that the new CBA rules for international signing favor the teams that are already good over the teams that most need help. Yea, that makes a lot of sense.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      If they’re willing to bust their cap in a given year, and then not be in on any of the top players the next year, yes.

      • BeyondFukudome

        But it’s the good teams that already are least likely to be in on next year’s top players anyway, right? So they will always have less to lose by spending on international signings. This is the kind of crap that really tempts me to just stop following baseball altogether.

        • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

          It is actually rather smart though. If you have around $1 million to spend versus everyone else you could find something there, but you could have this kid for more. To me that would be worth losing $1 million.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          That’s what I’m saying – I think this falls into the unforeseen consequences category (at least, for MLB’s sake, I hope it was merely unforeseen).

          • BeyondFukudome

            It took us all two minutes to figure it out, so I rather doubt it could be unforeseen.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Well, it was all collectively bargained, and, since the rest of the CBA was relatively un-large-market-team-friendly on the amateur side, maybe this was something those teams (which would, in the future, include the Cubs) worked into the thing. Give and take, and all that.

  • BD

    Help us, Shohei Otani. You’re our only hope.

    • BD

      Not that I believe this is true (he’s just one prospect), but the Cubs could really use a 6’4″ 18-year old who touches 100mph with his fastball.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        but the Cubs could really use a 6’4″ 18-year old who touches 100mph with his fastball.

        heh, is there a team in MLB for which this statement is not true?

        • BD

          That’s always the case, but I don’t know if there is a team out there that needs one more than the Cubs do right now.

      • JB88

        Isn’t that basically Duane Underwood?

        • EQ76

          or is it Carrie Underwood?

          • Cubbie Blues

            No that is a legit prospect.

    • http://worldseriesdreaming.com/ Rice Cube

      If you sign him now, he shall become more powerful than you can ever imagine…

      • hansman1982

        no…if the Cardinals sign him he shall become more powerful than even Dick Tidrow could ever imagine…

        • Katie

          Holy crap.

    • Ogyu

      Help us, Shohei Otani. You’re our only hope.

      No, there is another . . . Flamethrower.

      • OlderStyle

        well done.

  • Cubsfan97

    I dont know the rules 100 percent TWC, but my guess is if they blew their load on Otani, then they would not be allowed to sign anyone else, any contract they sign would just be voided (as far as the ones over 250K go)

  • NayrSagud

    What if you sign him to a 1 year deal just to get him and give him and extension after July. I mean would that hit the international Cap or is that the best way around it. If so, than the Cubs have a real good chance at signing him; but as we saw with Fukudome the Japan player hasn’t worked out for us.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Anything you give him is subject to the cap, and he isn’t going to sign with a team offering him markedly less than other teams. Further, you can offer him only a minor league contract with a signing bonus. There aren’t – to my knowledge – any ways around this.

  • Noah

    I see what you’re saying, but if Otani is looking for a team to bust through their international signing budget and essentially say we’re only signing you this year and next year, then I don’t think the Cubs would be interested in the first place. Whether he goes now or in July, if there’s some team willing to give him $30 million, or $20 million, or $10 million (and by the way, a $10 million deal would in fact be a $17.1 million deal if signed right now, more than that next year if he goes to a good team), then the Cubs aren’t going to be involved at any point in time. If teams aren’t willing to bust their international spending budget in that way, though, the Cubs are in a great position to make a serious run at him next year.

    I think the fact that you didn’t see good teams, who will get less than $2.9 million to spend on international free agency next year, bust their budgets this season indicates an unlikelihood for teams to go way over those budgets to sign anyone.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Or they didn’t go over their budgets yet because (a) the class was kind of weak, or (b) they were hoping Otani would become available. I really have no idea, but those explanations are just as plausible. I’m increasingly convinced that the “penalties” here are pretty weak for teams who’ll have small budgets next year.

      • Noah

        But here’s the thing: if you’re going to bust your budget one year, why not just go all out? A team could have spent their $2.9 million or more on everyone else, and then said let’s go after Otani as well. I’m not saying that your scenario isn’t plausible, and in fact I’d enjoy it as a slap in the face to Selig and Reinsdorf on the utterly ridiculous penalties they enacted on international free agent spending and the draft. I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

  • http://worldseriesdreaming.com/ Rice Cube

    [img]http://www.geekzenith.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/shut-up-and-take-my-money.jpeg[/img]

    Just a bit disappointed that nobody did this yet.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Smiles.

  • ncsujuri

    Based on the International Signing restrictions/caps etc. Wouldn’t it make more sense for him to sign with the Ham Fighters and then go through the posting process? Darvish got way more $$$ than any team can spend on an International Free agent. Inherent hurdles exist regarding the team letting him go to being posted and the blind bids etc. and I get that, but it seems like it would be worth it for the extra cheddar…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      A team won’t post him for several years, though, because he’d be under massively cheap control for them. Also, I believe you’re still subject to the international signing restrictions until you’ve been a pro in Japan for like four years. But, in principle, you’re thinking correctly.

      • ncsujuri

        Cheap control v. the $50 Million they would make by posting him though??? Curious about the timing of his announcement, maybe he wasn’t aware of the time frame when $$ resets, maybe he just doesn’t care because he knows what he wants to sign for and where…

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          The four year thing – don’t forget the four year thing.

          • ncsujuri

            When is the NPB draft? Did this announcement have more to do with that date than anything going on over here I wonder?

            • Cubbie Blues

              I believe it is Thursday.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              That was my assumption – the NPB draft is this week.

          • ncsujuri

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posting_system

            Not that Wiki is the be all and end all but I don’t see anything about a four year requirement here. I see something that says they are exempt from posting after 9 years, but not a minimum time…unless I just missed it, which is always a possibility…

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              No, no – not saying there’s some four-year rule on the posting system. I’m saying there’s some four-year rule on the number of years a Japanese player has to be a pro in Japan before signing him via the post doesn’t count toward your IFA cap.

              Dug into it – it’s a certain number of pro years (which I believe is four or five) or 23-years-old. Either way, Otani doesn’t become eligible to not count against the IFA cap for several years.

              • King Jeff

                You are correct Brett, it’s four years, of playing on a pro team. Most 18 year old draft picks don’t start playing for the pro teams right away either, so it could end up being 7 or more years like it was for DiceK and Darvish.

  • Patrick W.

    Just curious: What are the rules on trading such a player?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Should be the same as other amateur signees – can’t trade ‘em until a year after they sign.

  • calicubsfan007

    Maybe someone already answered this, but I am confused. Since the amount of money teams can spend on IFAs has decreased, shouldn’t this decrease the amount of money the FA is asking for?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yes – and it has, and it will for almost all players.

      But we’re talking about the hypothetical possibility of blowing past your allotted pool on a super stud – once you blow past it, the sky’s the limit (in theory).

      Whether Otani is that guy, well, we’ll see.

  • abe

    I hope the cubs don’t waste their money on him. With their pool for next year they can sign 10 Ontanis..

  • Curt

    So if the cubs are. So desperate for pitching in the minors and this guy is that good overpay and get him, I think it just depends on how much you want him.

  • cubchymyst

    Fangraphs just had an article about Shohei Otani, and it sounds like his control might be an issue. It states in one game he had 11K and also 11 walks.

    With the larger pool next year I’d rather see the cubs grab 4 or 5 players like Frank De La Rosa and Juan Carlos Paniagua then blow it all on 1 player like Otani.

    • Ogyu

      I liked this comment from FanGraphs:

      “Oooooh, according to Google Translate, Shohei Otani means Stetson Allie in English.”

    • stillmisskennyhubbs

      I hope you meant “than” instead of “then”. There wouldn’t be the dough for “then”.

      • cubchymyst

        the “then” is a typo, likely from some wishful thinking about how nice it would be if the Cubs could do both.

  • http://www.opportunity.org Seamhead

    Theo & Co. have clearly indicated that they are in this for the long haul, and envison a farm system that eventually produces “waves” of pitching prospects.

    No matter how good a prospect Otani might project to be, signing him at the cost of forfeiting a substantial number of prospects needed for that future pipeline would be foolish and short-sighted.

    And while some of their early decisions have backfired, I don’t think that this crew is either foolish or short-sighted.

    • Ogyu

      I think you hit the seam on the head, Seamhead. ;-)

      • hansman1982

        Yup…why acquire 1 lottery ticket when you should be able to acquire 2 in 7 months.

        • Featherstone

          I think its closer to 3 or 4 lottery tickets with the size of our pool next year. We had 2.9 mil this year, we’ll have nearly 4.8 mil next year, but yeah the idea remains the same. If you’re going to gamble, more is better.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Yeah, it’s like lottery tickets, but they don’t all have the same odds. The more expensive tickets tend to “hit” more often. So, ideally, you’d have a nice mix of a few “expensive” prospects, and a bundle of “cheap” prospects.

            So, it’s kind of both – consolidate your money into a few number of high odds studs … and spread your money out over a bunch of low odds gambles.

  • WI Jeff

    How did that turn out??????
    Remember Todd Van Poppel. Generally considered to be the best player available in the 1990 MLB Draft and appearing on the premiere issue of Beckett Future Stars magazine with Nolan Ryan (hint, hint), Van Poppel warned the Atlanta Braves not to select him first overall if they didn’t plan on giving him a substantial (for 1990 standards) signing bonus; even threatening to enroll at the University of Texas, if needed. The Braves and 12 other teams were scared off and Van Poppel fell to Oakland at pick #14. (The Braves instead had to “settle” for some kid out of Jacksonville named Larry Jones.)

    But Van Poppel wasn’t the only highly-regarded pitcher Oakland selected in that draft. Oakland was awarded three additional first round picks that year and used them all on pitchers: Don Peters at #26, David Zancanaro at #34 and Kirk Dressendorfer 36th. Four first-rounder’s, all pitchers, all taken by the same team? How did that turn out??????

    • hansman1982

      The Tigers once drafted Justin Verlander…how’d that turn out??????????????

    • calicubsfan007

      @Jeff: That Van Poppel dilemma sounds eerily similar to the Mark Appel situation this year. But it also sounds like this example can be used to make the point for the other side. The Braves didn’t waste their money on an over hyped pitcher, instead, they picked a guy who was the cornerstone of their team for more than a decade. Ergo, instead of wasting money on Otani, we can pick guys that will probably cost the same amount of money as Otani alone. This could lead us to a better team in the future, kind of like how the A’s are now.

  • gutshot5820

    It all depends on highly this guy is rated by your scouts. If he has the potential to be a #1 pick or similar to the US amatuer draft, then you should bust through the limit and do whatever it takes to sign the guy. Doesn’t matter if you are the Cubs or Dodgers. Next year trade your entire international pool money to Boston or New York for a top prospect. Problem solved.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Not sure we’ve yet seen the full details on the rules governing the trade of international pool money – I’m not sure it would be quite that simple. Would love to see a link if you’re aware of one, though.

      • gutshot5820

        “With the differentiated pools, each team’s pool is divided into bonus slots. Using Houston as the example again, its $4.7 million is divided into four slots: $3 million, $450,000 and so on. That doesn’t mean the Astros would be limited to spending a maximum of $3 million on one player. They could use all of the pool on one player if they wanted to. But the slots are tradeable, and a team can deal away one or more slots. If the Astros decided to include their $450,000 slot in a deal, the receiving team would then have that much more money to spend internationally (no actual money changes hands). One restriction: A team cannot, through trades, increase its pool by more than 50 percent.”

        Basically means the Cubs can trade their entire slot money to two or more teams as long as the receiving team does not increase their original pool by more than 50%.

        http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20111201&content_id=26069652&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Thanks, good find – but it demonstrates that the Cubs couldn’t do the plan you’re suggesting. If their biggest “slot” is $3 million or so, any team receiving that in trade would necessarily increase their pool by much more than 50% (even the Astros, whose pool will be $4.8 million – $7.8 million is more than 150% of $4.8 million). MLB probably created the “slots” to restrict the kind of shenanigans you very creatively suggested.

          • Sandberg

            I was about to post the same thing. Again this seems to be a case where bad teams get screwed. A middle of the pack or better team could manage to trade their entire international pool if it needed to.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Yup, they could.

              That said, I’m not sure this is a case of the bad teams getting screwed – the Cubs, for example, could “acquire” more IFA money than most other teams.

              • Sandberg

                Hmm, that is true. It’ll be interesting to see how these things shake out in the next couple of years.

          • gutshot5820

            Maybe we are interpreting it differently. In essence, the cubs could trade a few of their slots to one team as long as the total amount they traded to the receiving team does not exceed 50% of their original pool. So, if Houston had a 4.7M pool, the Cubs can trade them a few slots totaling 2.35M and it would be ok. That’s how I read it.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Yeah, but it says the slots are structured, with the largest being $3 million (it will be a similar amount for the Cubs). The Cubs can’t trade a $3 million slot without pushing the receiving team more than 50% over their original pool.

            • Sandberg

              That’s how I read it too, but their $3 million slot would be not be able to be traded because it would be more than 50% of even the worst team’s pool. So they’d be stuck with approximately 63% of their total pool.

  • Jeremy

    From what I have been reding about Otani is that he wants to go to a team with a larger japanese population and a team with a track record of success. I guess he mentioned a couple of teams and Chicago wasn’t one of them. I think this could end up being a Red Sox-Dodgers bidding war sadly.

  • Jeremy

    Jim Callis

    “Three teams—the Dodgers, Rangers and Red Sox—have met with [Shohei] Otani in Japan, and he said yesterday that he plans on signing with one of them.”

    http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/ask-ba/2012/2614229.html

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Other good stuff in that piece, too – lots of reasons why Otani doesn’t seem too likely for the Cubs.

      • Jeremy

        Yeah there is. It does stink that we won’t be in on him because obviously we want to be in on every elite IFA but doesn’t make much sense to blow all of our money on one kid as good as he could be in the future, there is still a ton of risk with him. At least we got Panigua.

        Also, apparently next years IFA class is pretty strong as well, so saving our money for that next year instead of going getting penalties should be the better choice.

    • DarthHater

      As a Designated Hater, I’d just like to say that I’m really starting to hate the Dodgers.

      • EB

        Lol me too, and I’m not even a designated hater! I found it quite hilarious that they did not make the playoffs this year after making that huge deal with the red sox

  • When the Music’s Over

    If a team, such as the Cubs, really believes this guy is going to be great, then they shouldn’t care about next year’s international budget, even if it’s the second highest in baseball. The goal should be to get the highest impact talent on your team, so if you believe this guy is going to make a much bigger impact then say 5 different ~$1M international free agents, you 100% seriously explore what it will take to sign him. If the price gets astronomical where you are blowing $20M on on the tax alone, sure probably take pass at that point, regardless of his projected talent.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      “The goal should be to get the highest impact talent on your team, so if you believe this guy is going to make a much bigger impact then say 5 different ~$1M international free agents.”

      I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. I just think most folks would disagree that this guy is worth more than five $1 million caliber IFAs. But, like I said, I really have no idea about this guy’s true value.

      • When the Music’s Over

        Yep. That’s what GMs are paid to determine.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          That’s why they get the big bucks.

    • gutshot5820

      Exactly my point. If he has the potential to be a number one starter/elite and is equivalent of a top 5 pick in the US amatuer draft, then he is worth way more than a couple of lottery tickets spread out over 5M in next years draft and definitely worth next years entire international pool IMO. In fact, if he waited until next year and would accept a Cubs offer for the entire pool amount, I would have to believe Theo would offer it to him in a heartbeat.

      Regardless, like Brett said, it would be next to impossible to imagine a scenario in which the Cubs would sign him or he would sign with the Cubs. I would imagine, the Dodgers, Boston or Rangers are willing to bust the cap for him. Think about this, the Rangers signed Darvish for 6 yrs and total of 108M. Their scouts and front office seem to know what they are doing regarding pitchers/talent and if they are going hard after this kid, you have to believe he is a special talent.

      Theo, right now is in slow-mo mode and I also think he is hesitant to take big chances on Japanese players because of his past history. To me, he should have gone hard after Darvish and this guy. We are way short of impact pitching and these two guys only cost money and would definitely look good on our roster and make the future brighter.

  • JR

    So basically the Cubs have no chance of getting this dude? Great..

  • Stevie B

    ^^^^^ Is why we hired Theo to run this team.

    You think Jimmy H would be able to digest all these #’s???

    I’m dizzy just reading BN reader posts….

  • gutshot5820

    Boston Theo would have grabbed both Darvish and this guy, money be damned. Cubs Theo…. eh save money for the next time when the time is right. I’m starting to not like his new operatus modus.

    • http://wavesoftalent.webs.com tim

      Boston Theo had a good farm system and no limits on spending.

  • Still Love the Cubs

    I’m in complete agreement with everyone saying that the teams with a low spending limit for next year (aka the good teams), were already somewhat foolish. If I was them, I would have blown right past my spending limit and signed all of the top guys to more than the other teams were getting them. Can you imagine getting the top 8-10 guys in the IFA class?

    Then next year, you go for diamonds in the rough since you have to sign them for less than 250k (Starlin Castro was signed for 50k if memory serves (and that was without and spending limits in place)). Then the following year just do the same thing again getting the top 8-10 IFA’s.

    How many times has Brett or others said it: “Being able to acquire top prospects for only money is every GM’s dream scenario.” Only problem is that other teams will probably see how smart you were to do that and start doing the same thing. I can see the downside for the Cubs this year, but I see absolutely no downside whatsoever for a team like the Rangers.

    And I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs do it next year since the penalties they incur will actually be less sine their cap will be one of the highest, and they likely will be able to spend even more next year. How cool would it be to just get ALL the top guys in any given year?

  • mudge

    Sure are a lot of restrictions. Isn’t there a simpler way to provide equity?

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Isn’t there a simpler way to provide equity?

      It’s not clear that “equity” was the goal. The goal of some owners was to drag down how much gets spent on prospects: if MLB teams cannot pay them big $$$, then they have to take less to play baseball. I suspect that they did not foresee all of the outcomes.

      The goal of the players union was different altogether. They want $$$ previously spent on prospects spent on current players through free agency, contract extension, etc. Remember, those hot prospects that (say) the Cubs sign don’t mean much to veteran players, who probably will not be on the Cubs (and might not even be in baseball) by the time those guys are contributing to the Cubs. Five year plans are well and good for front offices and fans: but a huge chunk of current MLB players will be gone in 5 years.

    • Eric

      I think the old system already provide equity. The bad teams got to pick really high in the draft. I mean look at the Nationals, they were the worst team for two straight years. What did that get them? Strasburg and Harper. The Cubs are going to have 3 years in a row of high picks. What did that get them? Baez (currently really highly ranked), Almora, and another top pick. This new system sucks as it makes it harder for teams like Boston and the Cubs (who are finally started to REALLY spend in the draft and internationally). Atleast sucking this year will allow the Cubs to pick up likely 3-4 really interesting international guys next year to help boost their farm system even more.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        The old system could have provided equity, but too many of the small market teams deliberately passed on top prospects because they knew that they could not offer enough to get them to sign. The new system is attempting to alleviate that with good old fashioned extortion: you take less, or you don’t get to play baseball! Some of the side-effects might not be what people expected, however.

      • Boogens

        You make some valid points but it’s hard to use the last two Cubs drafts to support your points. In 2012 Almora was drafted 6th overall and in 2011 Baez was drafted 9th overall. Although both players are strong prospects they’re not exactly the same level of “high” draft picks as the Nationals had when they grabbed Strasburg & Harper..

        • Eric

          No they aren’t on the same level but the point still stands. Baez would not have been there had the Cubs chose 20th. Almora probably wouldn’t have made it past 8. And next year we get #2 which should (as long as the Cubs scout well) be a very strong prospect.

  • da_cubs

    On a happier note,the Giants are beating the Cardinals 7-0 in the 4th inning!!

    • Eric

      Yeah I know I’m watching. Don’t count the Cardinals out I am NOT celebrating until the final out. I am pulling for the Giants though.

    • SirCub

      No happier note exists!

  • Dan

    Go Giants! (for today only)

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