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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 MLB.com). 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.

  • http://www.dccoffeeproducts.com John

    Hey Brett- can you explain how they can trade for pool money? Say player x (in minor leagues or major leagues) for x amount of dollars?? Is there a slotting system per se? Thanks.

    • Grant

      A little background –

      Each team’s bonus pool starts at a base of $700,000. After that, they are given 4 “wedges,” each corresponding to a certain amount of spending allowance, based on their prior season’s performance. Note that these wedges are not equal in value, even for the same team. For example, the Astros’ allotment is $4,943,700. This is $700,000 (base allotment) + $3,246,000 (first slot/1st wedge) + $468,400 (31st slot/2nd wedge) + $316,300 (61st slot/3rd wedge) + $213,000 (91st slot/4th wedge).

      So, while you can’t trade directly for spending allowances in dollars, you can trade for wedges. Does that make sense?

      • Feeney

        4 wedges. So the International spending pool system is basically Phil Mickelson’s golf bag?

  • cjdubbya

    After the four slot values, is there a deal like post-10th round picks in the Rule 4 draft where you can sign dudes for up to a certain amount and not have that money count toward the overall pool? Like, after your four big guys, can you sign a guy today for up to, let’s say, $50K, or maybe $25K, and that doesn’t count toward the pool?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yes – that’s pretty much exactly it. You can sign six players for $50,000 or less that don’t count against the pool, and everyone under $10,000 doesn’t count.

  • Rich H

    It looks like the Rockies are striking first with signing Carlos Herrera for around a million.

  • http://www.dccoffeeproducts.com John

    Thanks for explaing the how the international draft works guys. Have a happy and safe 4th of July to all and GOD Bless the USA!

  • Rebuilding

    Ah, the international free agent day. It’s so important, but so hard to judge what you get. You just have to trust the FO. If we do get extra pool money – so we use our money on who we think are the top few guys and then use whatever’s left over and the additional money to spread around – I think it’s a great strategy. Yes, these guys are far away but often turn out to be some of the best in the game fairly quickly. Two examples related to the Cubs are Castro coming up at 20 and Miguel Cabrera (who was signed out of Venezuela in 1999) coming up at 20 to help the Marlins win the NLCS in 2003

    • Kyle

      Those are a good pair to mention, because it demonstrates the wide range of outcomes. Cabrera was a no-doubt super-stud prospect, Castro was just one of the many, many cheap and relatively interesting guys a team signs each year.

      IFAs are a much bigger crapshoot than the draft, which itself is a huge crapshoot.

  • North Side Irish

    Jesse Sanchez ‏@JesseSanchezMLB 27m
    SS Gleyber Torres (VZ), #3 on http://MLB.com Top 30 int’l prospects list, expected to make announcement at presser in Caracas today.

  • North Side Irish

    Regarding Jiminez, in Badler’s signing predictions article yesterday, he wrote: “Jimenez might sign on July 2, but if the Cubs do end up signing him, don’t be surprised if he ends up waiting until after July 2 so the Cubs can trade for more money. Either way, it’s hard to see them not getting him done.”

    So the way-yate-ting could actually be seen as a good thing…

  • Jon

    I cry when I think how good the Cubs system would be if they didn’t have to operate with a cap on draft pick signings and the IFA market.

    Talk about an awful decision by Selig that took away an advantage for the smaller, “smarter” market teams that allowed them to compete against the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels of the world.

    For my money, no worse commissioner (modern era)in the history of sports than Selig.

    • ssckelley

      Actually wasn’t it not designed to make it fair for the small market teams since the large market teams could simply outbid everyone else for the top talent? It is frustrating seeing Bryant hold out as there are a couple of HS players that would sign if the Cubs had pool money available. In particular a couple of high school catchers Alamo and Pena who were rated fairly high and have indicated a willingness to sign. But obviously the top priority is to sign Bryant.

      • bbmoney

        Eh, that’s how they’ve tried to sell it.

        To me, it’s really taken away another route small market teams could have taken to acquire talent in the cheapest way possible. Several smaller market teams were some of the largest spenders in the draft at least for the several years leading up to the new CBA. I think the real reason the owners wanted this, (frankly the players already on big league deal don’t care) is it simply controls costs, brings cost certainty, and keeps draft prices from ballooning.

      • Rich H

        How can any system that was designed by Jerry Reinsdorff be fair to the little guy? This system was not designed to help the small markets. It was designed to keep the status quo and make the minors cheaper in general so that if a team wants to be competitive they have to spend on the major league roster.

        The top spenders in the draft the years before this new system were Pittsburgh, Arizona, Nationals, Texas and Kansas City. Why? Because they all realized even over spending on the draft was cheaper and had better cost control than going the Free Agency route that the Yankees, Boston, LA and Anaheim have been going.

        So where on paper you can say look at how fair this system is now. You really need to understand that fairness has nothing to do with it.

        • nkniacc13

          How can it be it can be because the CWS spent like a small market team in the international market

        • Rebuilding

          In reality, Reinsdorf has a small market team despite being in Chicago. Any system designed by him would involve spending less money

    • hansman1982

      “For my money, no worse commissioner (modern era)in the history of sports than Selig.”

      I’m not arguing against this; however, it is interesting how fans of every sport say this about their commish.

      • Jon

        I’m a fan of the NBA and NFL as well.

        Stern – first 20 years of his tenure were pure $$$$. The last decade been a bit turned off with the officiating, flopping, whinning, etc. still the NBA is in a good spot

        Goodell – His dictaorship is a bit annoying, but again, he’s done a good job

        Selig – Only commish in the major sports that didn’t have the guts to implement a salary cap, leaving a horrible system of “have nots” also did his failure during the steroid era

        • SenorGato

          I love that baseball has no salary cap. If you think owners are greedy now then a salary cap only aids their cause….If nothing else Selig gets a point there from me.

        • ssckelley

          Great assessment and I could not agree more. Another smear on Selig’s leadership was the drug use, you cannot tell me the commissioners was not aware of what was going on. All the big homeruns and the records being broke brought the fans back to the game and made baseball a lot of money. It is a shame that it took congress to step in and force baseball to clean itself up.

        • Jim L.

          It’s not that Selig didn’t have the guts to implement a salary cap, the MLBPA is the strongest of the 4 major sports players unions. God bless Marvin Miller, wherever you are.

  • Jim

    …was that a Tom Petty reference?

  • Kyle

    In IFA signing period terms, “attached to” a team and “rumored to be about $X” is code for a completely done deal that’s just waiting to be able to come official. I’m not worried that our targets are going to sign elsewhere, it’s all a done deal.

  • Jacob welchans

    ^^ maybe I have a cheap since of humor but that’s funny right there.

  • bleeds cubbie blue

    So its begun, Badler just tweeted the cubs signed RHP Jefferson Meija for 850,000

  • Timothy Scarbrough
    • ssckelley

      I am curious as to why BA is saying he might not get to pitch this year.

      • nkniacc13

        Idenity issues

  • nkniacc13

    I like this guy if he can play this year. Another player the cubs get that has had identity issues

  • LWeb23

    Probably overexcited, but I really am excited about the Dominican Righty we signed today, Jefferson Mejia. 6’7″, 220ish. Last year he was 6’7″ 190 and throwing in the high 80’s. He is now 18, filling his frame, and sitting in the low 90’s range now. He sounds like quite the speciman. I’d love to see what the he can do with the better resources the Cubs can offer him.

    • nkniacc13

      He was a Tampas Dominican facility I believe for most of the laast year

  • socalicubsfan

    Mejia signing… YES (Finally something. I thought I was going to break the refresh button over here!)

  • nkniacc13

    Apparently Texas got some pool $ from Miami anyone hear what they gave up?

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  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    According to MLB Trade Rumors site the Indians and reliever John Axford have reached agreement on a one year deal.
    If the Cubs are going to let try and play Junior Lake in CF full time and platoon in RF with Schierholtz and Ruggiano while Sweeney plays LF I would like to see Jeff Baker signed to platoon with him in left.
    Baker really put up some solid numbers last year in Texas versus left handed pitching. He also can spell Rizzo at first and can play at third or second if needed.

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