To date, we’ve had credible estimates on the bonus pools that MLB teams will have available to them in 2015, based on revenue growth in the game. But now we have the actual figures MLB has circulated to teams, thanks to Baseball America.
According to BA, the Chicago Cubs’ draft bonus pool for 2015 will be $7,236,100. The Cubs have the 14th highest pool this year, despite having the 8th worst record last year. That’s thanks to the many compensatory and competitive balance picks other teams are receiving – you’ll note that the team just ahead of the Cubs on the list, with about $150,000 more to spend is the Cardinals.
Last year, the Cubs’ pool was about $8.35 million, and they wound up spending about $9.783 million on signing bonuses. (Recall, a team can exceed its pool by up to 5% without incurring any loss of draft pick penalties, and also picks after round 10 can be signed for up to $100,000 without counting against the pool).
So, as you’d expect when picking five spots lower in the draft, the Cubs likely won’t be able to bring in quite as much talent in 2015 as they did last year – in terms of the cost to sign the players, anyway – but they should still have plenty to work with, especially if they continue to sign over their allotted budget (something they’ve done more than any team in baseball in the Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod era).
You can see the full list of pools here, ranging from the Astros’ gigantic pool (about $17.3 million) down to the Mets’ small pool (about $3.6 million).
On the international side, the pools merely go in reverse order of the standings from the previous year, so the Cubs’ 2015-16 IFA bonus pool comes in 8th, with $3,230,700 to spend. Of course, that number may not matter if the Cubs are going to, as reported, blow their budget out of the water, and willingly incur the steepest penalties (a dollar-for-dollar tax on the overage, and a bar against signing any individual player for more than $300,000 during the next two IFA periods). In doing so, the Cubs might be banking on the rules changing again with the next CBA (the current iteration expires after 2016), and perhaps not suffering the full penalty, or at least taking advantage of what might be the last full year to engage in this kind of overspending.
Several teams are into that extreme penalty for the current period – the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Angels, and Diamondbacks – so they will not be able to sign any players for more than $300,000 starting on July 2, when the 2015-16 period opens up. They may look to trade some of their pool to a team like the Cubs, who would essentially be picking up cash (any amount they add to their pool, they would then save against the tax (though a team may add only 50% of their pool)).