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dominican flagOn July 2, the next international signing period opens up. That means that teams will be able to sign the next wave of 16-year-old talents from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the Pacific Rim, and, increasingly, other corners of the world where baseball’s popularity is ticking up slightly. The Cubs, who have the second largest international bonus pool thanks to their crappy 2012 season, have already been heavily linked to two of the biggest prospects available – Dominican outfielder Eloy Jimenez and Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres. Jimenez is expected to get the largest bonus this year, and has been described as the latest “crown jewel” of Dominican baseball, and is MLB.com’s top prospect in the class.

This year, although teams are restricted in their spending by a pool of money (which is calculated by starting with a $700,000 baseline and then adding four “slot values,” which aren’t actually tied to any particular signings), teams are permitted to trade international signing pool space. Teams are permitted to increase their pool by up to 50% (the Cubs’ pool is around $4.5 million), but pool space may be traded only in full slots.

In other words, those four slot values that each team has? The team can trade international pool space, but only those four specific slots – not whatever amount of money you want. The slots range from the high millions for bad teams’ top slot, then to the mid-six figures for the second slot, and down to the $100,000 to $200,000 range for the final slots. For more on the slots and how they are traded, see this helpful piece from Baseball America’s Ben Badler.

As a team heavily into amateur acquisition mode, you can expect the Cubs to spend their full international allotment this year (together with some crafty overage approaches, not unlike in the Draft), and Badler recently guessed that the Cubs will also look to add additional international pool space via trade. Such trades cannot be made until the signing period opens up on July 2, and Badler was told by MLB that international pool space cannot be used as compensation in a player to be named later or cash type deal (of which the Cubs have already made several).

So, come Tuesday, July 2, we might start hearing some Cubs rumors involving international pool space.

But, um … how much is that stuff worth?

The thing is, it’s really tricky to value the international pool money at this point for a number of reasons. There is no precedent, and the inherent value of pool space is fungible. More importantly, although every team values players, prospects, draft picks, and actual cash, not every team is going to value these international slots in the same way.

Indeed, some of the international pool slots may have absolutely no value to the team that holds it because the team isn’t intending on spending it anyway. That slot would still have value in trade – anything you have that the other guy wants is valuable, even if you don’t care to have it anymore – but it would be extremely low. To other teams, however, even the smallest international slot could be very valuable, relatively speaking.

At most, a $200,000 slot would be valued about as much as a $200,000 16-year-old prospect. At least, it would be something less than that, since you’re not actually getting the prospect or the money – you’re just getting space.

It’s important to keep in mind what we’re talking about. This is a metaphysical chunk of money that, after acquired, you still have to spend. You’re trading for the right to spend more money – that could make the value less than you might think. Further, the money is to be spent on the highest risk signings in all of baseball: raw, undeveloped, potentially erratic, and extraordinarily young prospects. How much is the *ability* to spend *more* money on *highly risky* 16-year-old prospects really worth?

The penalties for overspending in the international space are unkind – limits your ability to sign expensive prospects the next year – but not quite as draconian as the penalties for overspending in the Draft. That, too, must be a consideration when valuing trades for extra pool space.

Tony Campana recently netted the Cubs two already-paid-for teenage pitching prospects (one of which, Erick Leal, is looking pretty good in rookie ball so far this year), who had received signing bonuses of $250,000 and $75,000. While this is an imperfect exercise, that should give you a very rough idea of how slots in the $200,000 to $400,000 range should be valued. Tony Campana was a borderline 25th man with a number of flaws in his game, and it looks like he could have netted a healthy chunk of international pool space.

If you’re asking me, extra international pool space is valuable, insofar as the Cubs want to be able to use it, but it isn’t nearly as valuable as established and already-paid-for prospects in the minor leagues. Neither is it as valuable as the competitive balance draft picks that teams can trade (unless you’re talking about $1 million or more of pool space). I suspect that we’ll see the Cubs acquire additional pool space in small chunks as a throw-in to a larger deal, or as part of lesser trades involving guys like Campana.

  • Dumpgobbler

    Nice wite up Brett. As always, especially with the Campana for Leal example, you do a good job of interpreting the relatively unknown.

  • cubchymyst

    I am hoping that the Cash part of the two players sent over to the Yankees can yield 1 of there slot values. Which if I’m calculating it right should be around 200,000 give or take some.

    • hansman1982

      Nope, Brett confirmed it via Ben (I think that name is right) Badler that they can’t.

      • JoeyCollins

        I had the same idea, and was hoping that is what would happen, but then Ben kinda killed that dream.

      • cubchymyst

        Well that sucks, missed that part of the post. That is what I get for a quick read through while working.

    • Kappy

      “Badler was told by MLB that international pool space cannot be used as compensation in a player to be named later or cash type deal”

      And only 1 player was traded to the Yankees.

      • JoeyCollins

        Alberto Gonzalez and Brent Lillibridge both went to the yankess in seperate deals.

  • Rich H

    There was a list somewhere that showed the breakdown of what each slot was worth for each team. The Yankees last slot is worth like 180k. I keep thinking that this is what the 2 trades we have done are for but need to wait to find out for sure.

  • Jay

    With these new signing limits in the regular draft, the next collective bargaining agreement HAS to allow teams to trade draft picks ala football. And it seems like as far as this international slot thing goes, teams shouldn’t have parameters put on them as to what they can and can’t trade (ie: slot money)

  • Lou Brown

    Off topic, but I am pondering the Bryant signing. Is the FO seriously lowballing (like 100k over what Gray signed for) and standing firm, in hopes of signing Clifton, Alamo, maybe Martinez? Bryant’s back to school option is high-risk, and if he does go, we end up with the 3rd and 5th picks, along with associated pool money, in next years draft. I believe that draft has many TOR-type arms projected to go top ten. Knowing Theo’s love of game theory, it’s a winning strategy theory-wise.

    • Edwin

      I’m sure the Cubs are sticking low due to the position Bryant is in. The only way Bryant makes more money is if he is somehow drafted either #1 or #2 next year. However, he’d be a college senior next year, so he’d be in the same situation as Appel was this year. For Bryant to go back to school, it’s a lot of risk and very little reward, especially once you consider that he would have lost a year of development, and would in a way be delaying his FA for another year down the road.

      That said, I don’t think losing Bryant and getting the draft pick next year is really a winning strategey. The only way it works out is if the Cubs draft a player who is decidedly a better prospect than Bryant. Otherwise they would have lost out on a year of player development to draft basically the same player. I think even if the Cubs grabbed one of those TOR-type arms, the marginal increase in prospect value would be offset by the delay in talent development.

      • Lou Brown

        Yeah, I think the sign Bryant, Clifton, et.al is the preferred scenario. But the back up option is not too dire.

  • Blublud

    I not sure if it’s been suggested, but are we sure the Cubs will trade for more international money. What if the plan is to trade away internatiol money in a deal with one of our trade candidates to secure a higher ranked prospect. There may be a contending team with less pool money, because they were also good last year, that may wanna add to their pool, while also adding MLB talent this.

    • Rich H

      i really like the idea of doing both. Sitting at 4.5 mil or what ever is it really nessecary to go after 5 or 6 high end guys? What about trying to get 2 top end prospects and using the rest to improve the returns on some of our trades? The reason I am mentioning this is because if the Cubs are really trying to open the window in 2014 and be in the fight for the playoffs in 2015 then they need to get proactive in acquiring almost ready talent. I am not sure how many 16 year olds will be ready to help in 2 or 3 years but I can bet the answer is NONE.

      • Eternal Pessimist

        I agree, but the Cubs FO are also concerned about how good the Cubs will be in 2016, 2017, 2018….

        • Rich H

          Oh I agree but the percentage of missing on kids that are 16 years old is very high. If you can trade some of the money later in the slot system for a little better return on trades now would that not work out for later years as well?

        • BluBlud

          Right, but if we can load the team with plenty of good 23-25 year old MLB players by 2015, 2016, 17, and 18 will take care of itself. At the point, the Cubs can take their time to restock the system and let the players develop, because the need at the major league level will decrease soom.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            Keep in mind that the relatively low value of International Free Agent money that Brett dissected applies to the rest of league as well as the Cubs. No one is likely to upgrade from a B prospect to an A prospect because the Cubs kick in a few hundred thousand of pool room.

            Meanwhile, by using that money themselves, the Cubs can sign some lottery ticket types that could turn into Bs or As themselves (or bust altogether, of course). I suspect the potential value is much higher in that scenario.

            • Rich H

              Great point Luke. But if a deal was close with a small market team (say SD and their pursuit of Garza) and they have an offer of the kid that pitched last night, the kid that has already been mentioned and another lesser thought of prospect couldn’t the extra money bump up that last part to something that is better? Being lazy today in my research so I am just going on what we have already discussed.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                It’s not impossible, but I don’t see it being too significant.

                Odds are good that SD (for example) would just prefer to have someone the Cubs have already signed in the DSL or ARL and who is a little more of a known commodity.

  • BluBlud

    some

  • steve123

    A guy that could return some of this international spending is Cody Ransom. The Athletics need a backup 2nd/SS/3rd. This gives them that without really giving up any money. They are a low market team so this makes a great deal. I am unsure how much of this International money Ransom would cost.

    • Patrick W.

      Seems weird to say this, but he is literally the only back-up infielder on the roster. Who would the Cubs replace him with? Arguments can be made that they need another back up IF NOW, without Ransom they need two.

      • mudge

        Mr. Junior Lake

        • steve123

          If Barney is traded, I think Lake should become everyday 2nd/3rd baseman (whichever Valbuena does not play). I see this as an offensive upgrade.

      • steve123

        I liked Yamaico Navarro who just went unclaimed, but I would give one of the AAA guys a chance. This season is over and although Ransom has done a solid job for us, we might as well give a guy a promotion and see what happens. Donnie Murphy, Logan Watkins, or Junior Lake are all options. My preference being Murphy mainly because I want the other two to continue to get regular at bats.

      • cms0101

        They can always go out and get another backup IF. They can call up a AAA kid. They could bring up Donnie Murphy. Or they could even bring Lake up in a pinch, since he’s already on the 40-man anyway. Vitters could come back, allowing Valbuena to be the swing IF and cover 2nd or 3rd as needed. I believe one of Bogusevic or Schierholtz could play 1st in a pinch. Navarro too. They’ve got options. But Ransom isn’t someone they HAVE to dump. They’d have to get comparable value for him to what he brings them on the field, either international pool cash or prospect wise.

        • steve123

          I dont think he would bring back anything more than a PTBNL if traded alone. This is why i think international spending is the best way to go. This puts all the fate in our hands, while giving us most likely the biggest INT pool.

  • cubsin

    Doc Gooden and Ken Griffey Jr. had a bit of success at 19…

    • Rich H

      But the chances of getting another Griffey or Gooden in the international market at 16 is very slim.

      • Rich H

        For every Cabrera in the international market there is 100 top “name” guys that crash and burn in the Dominican Summer League.

  • Rich H

    I normally do not put links up but I think it is important for people to actually see the guys we are talking about in the international free agent market this year.

    http://www.minorleagueball.com/2013/4/24/4259466/2013-international-free-agents

    • RoughRiider

      Very interesting. Thks.

  • Blublud

    He looks a lot like Soriano.

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