MLB Eliminating $50,000 Bonus Exemptions For International Signings

ORLANDO—Some slight changes are coming to the limits on international spending next year.

For the current signing period (2013-14) that began on July 2 and the previous one (2012-13), teams have been assigned signing bonus pools. However, each team also is allowed six signings of up to $50,000 that are exempt from the bonus pools.

When the 2014-15 signing period begins on July 2, those six exemptions will no longer exist. The rule, as outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement and reminded to teams today at a meeting for international scouts, essentially eliminates $300,000 is from what each team can spend without being penalized.

Major League Baseball hasn’t told teams yet what their pool spaces are for the coming signing period, although since pool space is awarded based on reverse order of 2013 major league winning percentage, teams are using last year’s numbers as a guide for what they’ll have to spend starting July 2. Sources in the meeting said the commissioner’s office did say there is a chance the pool numbers could be bumped up a nominal amount, possibly by an additional 1-2 percent. Per the CBA, all signings of $10,000 or less will be exempt from the pools, a small jump from the current unlimited $7,500 exemptions rule.

Thairo Estrada

Thairo Estrada (Photo by Mike Janes)

While international scouts are largely opposed to any limits on spending, at least within the new system there were several teams that liked having the six $50,000 exemptions. Once a team has maxed out its bonus pool, those exemptions offered flexibility to sign a player they may have found later and want to sign right away. Last year in August after quickly tapping out their $2.9 million bonus pool, the Yankees were able to sign Venezuelan shortstop Thairo Estrada for $49,000. As a 17-year-old in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League this season, Estrada ranked as the GCL’s No. 20 prospect.

As for the rest of today’s two-hour meeting, several sources described it as largely procedural, without much new being disclosed. Teams were not given any new information about the pending posting system with Japan.

As one person in the meeting put it: “They said, ‘Here’s your update on Japan: We don’t have an update on Japan.’ ”