dominican flagToday marks the opening of the 2013-14 international signing period, which affords MLB teams the opportunity to sign the next wave of (mostly 16 and 17-year-old) international talent. The MLB Draft is more widely-discussed and more broadly covered, but that is at least partially because of the singular nature of the event (and because it takes place here in the United States, and because the players aren’t quite as far away from the bigs). Signing international players has become nearly as important as drafting domestic ones, and today is an exciting day. You’ve just got to be patient, because most of these kids won’t even become relevant prospects for a few years.

For only the second time, teams’ international spending will be subject to a spending limit, and, for the first time, those limits are tiered based on each team’s big league record from 2012. So, while it may have sucked to suffer through the 2012 Cubs, at least there’s some upside today. That’s because the Cubs have $4,557,200 to spend internationally this year before any penalties kick in. That’s the second highest total in baseball (and, remember, older international free agents like Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez are not subject to that pool).

The Cubs are connected to some of the biggest names in the international market this year, including the top two prospects, according to Baseball America (two of the top three, according to Those two are Dominican outfielder Eloy Jimenez and Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres. Each is expected to command a substantial bonus, which might push the Cubs right up to the threshold of their bonus pool.

Fortunately, teams are able to trade chunks of their bonus pools this year, and many believe the Cubs will be acquiring that pool space in short order. That could allow them to sign not only top guys like Jimenez and Torres, but also a large number of lesser-known, but still pricey-in-the-aggregate prospects.

We could see signings announced as early as this morning, and could see a minor trade or two for pool space.

UPDATE: According to Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes, Jimenez hasn’t signed yet and “probably won’t” until the end of the week. The way-yate-ting is the hardest part. The delay makes you wonder whether (1) Jimenez hasn’t quite yet decided on his team, or (2) the Cubs need a little time to add some pool money via trade before they’re comfortable officially inking Jimenez to a big money deal.

On the flip side, Torres is expected to announce his own signing later today in Venezuela, per Jesse Sanchez.

UPDATE 2 (10:50am CT): I’m going to be writing full posts for each of the signings, but in case you’re checking in here, the Cubs have landed one of their targets – 18-year-old pitcher Jefferson Mejia, who gets a very healthy $850K bonus.

UPDATE 3 (11:10am CT): You can throw in Torres, too, who gets $1.7 million from the Cubs.

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