The structure of international free agency (which is the process by which international players, usually prospect-aged, sign with MLB organizations) has changed dramatically in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and could cause the Chicago Cubs a serious problem if they’d hoped to pursue Japanese superstar Shohei Otani.
But that’s not the focus today. It’s just kinda at the tip of my fire-laced tongue right now any time I hear about international free agency and the new CBA.
Instead, today’s focus is the release of the first set of organizational bonus pools under the new CBA, which sets a hard cap on IFA signings in a given period, based on team market size. Per Baseball America, the Cubs – as expected – fall into the group of teams that will get the smallest bonus pool with which to work in the 2017-18 period, $4.75 million. The medium market and/or medium revenue teams (Diamondbacks, Orioles, Indians, Rockies, Royals, Pirates, Padres, and, yes, Cardinals) get the largest pool, $5.75 million. (You’re wondering why the smallest markets don’t get the largest pool? That’s because they’re going to be getting a higher competitive balance draft pick spot, apparently.)
Pool space is tradable, and a team may acquire up to an additional 75% of its pool. Players signed for $10,000 or less do not count against the pool, and players who are at least 25 years old and have at least six years experience in another professional league are exempt.
The Cubs, you’ll recall, are still in the penalty box (this will be their second of two penalty years), and cannot sign any individual player for more than $300,000. Thus, you might see them trading bonus pool slots at some point.
Ben Badler has much more on the new IFA rules over at Baseball America, if you’d like to start familiarizing yourself with the changing landscape.