You may recall that, pursuant to the new (I suppose this year I can probably stop calling it “new”) Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams were limited to a $2.9 million pool to spend internationally in the 2012-13 international free agency year (kicks off July 2). If a team went over that limit, they were subject to penalties similar to those levied on teams who exceed their bonus pool in the Draft.
You may also recall that for this upcoming international free agency year, the pools were going to be tiered based on record the previous season. In other words – cha-ching – the Cubs have the second most money to spend, having finished with the second worst record last year.
According to Baseball America, the Cubs will have $4,557,200 to spend internationally this year, second only to the Astros, who get a touch over $4.9 million. The full list of bonus pools is available at that link, but a couple things immediately jump out at me: (1) the total pool amount for all teams is down markedly from last year (when each team got $2.9 million), and (2) only eight teams are getting at least $2.9 million this year. That means the benefit to the Cubs of having a larger pool this year is disproportionately strong, given that 22 teams will have less to spend this year than they had last year. Indeed, the teams at the bottom of the list are getting just $1.8/$1.9 million. Sometimes, it’s good to suck.
That BA piece goes on to note the various ways that teams can add players that aren’t subject to the pool, and Ben Badler writes in a separate piece that teams will be able to exceed their bonus pool by as much as 5% without suffering serious penalties (just a tax). That is similar to the Draft, and, if the Cubs need that extra 5%, it will be available to them.
In Badler’s article, he writes about the looming possibility of an international draft, which would obviously throw a great deal of this into upheaval. Although there will not be an international draft this year, the possibility remains for 2014. The deadlines to be aware of on that front: MLB must make a decision on an international draft by June 1, and, if they decide to do it, the Player’s Association must object – if they intend to veto the international draft – by June 15.
It’s expected (well, by me) that MLB will decide to implement an international draft, but I’m not sure what the Players will do. On the one hand, the nature of a draft drives down costs for teams, which they would then theoretically put to use in big league payroll. On the other hand, these are future members of the association that the MLBPA is holding down. Will they really be eager to do it?
In the end, I tentatively expect we’ll see an international draft in 2014, one that is a separate entity from the traditional, MLB Rule 4 Draft.