The 2017-18 International Free Agency period opens up this weekend, which means prospects from around the world – literally! – will be agreeing to deals with MLB organizations.
Well, kind of. The reality of the IFA market is such that many of these agreements are all but in place, even if informally, long before the signing period opens up on July 2.
Because the Chicago Cubs overspent wildly in the 2015-16 period, they incurred two years worth of spending limitations – no more than $300,000 on an individual prospect – and they will be serving out the second year of that penalty in this upcoming period.
But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to land any quality prospects. Not only will they assuredly do their best to scout and find lower-priced prospect diamonds, but they are also likely to land at least a couple of the top prospects on the market.
According to Baseball America’s Ben Badler,the Cubs figure to go after two of the top prospects in Mexico, 17-year-old right-hander Florencio Serrano (ranked 29th in the class by BA, outside top 30 to MLB Pipeline), and 16-year-old shortstop Luis Verdugo (ranked 47th by BA, 30th by MLB Pipeline).
How do the Cubs plan to land top prospects given their spending limitation? Well, as we’ve discussed before, prospects from Mexico are subject to a unique setup, where their local team retains up to 75% of the bonus the players receive to sign with MLB organizations. And since MLB counts only the portion that goes to the plate for purposes of the IFA restrictions, that means a team like the Cubs could sign a Mexican player for a $1.2 million bonus – in the range of typical top IFA prospect levels – without running afoul of the rules.
Read more about Serrano and Verdugo here at BA, as well as the other prospects the Cubs may soon sign.