When the 2013-14 international signing period opens on July 2, teams will be able to make trades with their international bonus pools.
We laid out the rules of how trades will work and ran through some hypothetical examples yesterday. The main takeaways are that:
So which teams are candidates to be involved in one of these trades? Here are a handful of clubs that could be involved as sellers and buyers in the new international trade market:
Marlins (Pool: $3,395,200)
The Marlins typically don't spend $3.4 million in the international market in two years, let alone one. While the Marlins might have a more competitive budget than they did last year, when their top signing was $85,000 Dominican third baseman Alberto Sanchez, it would be shocking if they spent their full pool allocation. They could have anywhere from $1 million to $2 million in pool space available to trade.
Rockies (Pool: $4,213,800)
Latin American scouting has been one of the strengths of the Rockies organization over the last decade under international scouting director Rolando Fernandez, but Colorado's international spending is usually in the middle of the pack or lower. The Rockies have the third-highest pool space in baseball, but it would be surprising if they spent it all. Based on what they have done historically, the Rockies could be willing to trade $1 million to $2 million of pool space.
Rays (Pool: $1,976,500)
Most teams willing to trade away pool space have the biggest pools, but the Rays are in a different situation. After exceeding their current 2012-13 bonus pool by more than 15 percent, the Rays won't be allowed to sign a player for more than $250,000 during the 2013-14 signing period. So despite having the 21st-highest bonus pool next signing period, the Rays might be willing to deal some of it away, although that's certainly not a lock. Consider that in 2011, the Rays spent an estimated $1.79 million on international amateur players and their most expensive signings—Venezuelan righthanders Jorman Duarte and German Marquez—each signed for $225,000. The Rays also have to sign more players than most teams because they have to fill out rosters for both their Dominican Summer League and Venezuelan Summer League clubs.
Astros (Pool: $4,943,700)
Why would a rebuilding team like the Astros, who have the highest international signing bonus pool, trade away pool space? Because no team needs to spend $5 million to be successful in the international market. Between their $700,000 base allocation and the No. 1 overall international slot value ($3.246 million), the Astros already have $3.946 million—only the Cubs and Rockies have more money available in their entire pool space. The values of their other slots (No. 31, 61 and 91) add up to $997,700. So the Astros could keep the No. 1 overall slot, roll with a bonus pool of nearly $4 million, then have around $1 million in slot values to trade away to bring back other assets to help the organization.
Twins (Pool: $3,908,600)
The Twins spent $3.15 million on Miguel Sano in 2009 and they have increased their presence in Latin America in recent years. Sano was a special case, however, and even in 2011—the last year before MLB implemented international spending restrictions—the Twins spent an estimated $2.31 million on international amateur signings. Are they really going to spend nearly $4 million all of a sudden on international players? Perhaps, but the No. 4 slot alone ($2,250,700) leaves them with close to $3 million, so the rest of their slots could give them another $1 million to trade.
Indians (Pool: $3,636,900)
Cleveland is in a similar boat as Minnesota as a team that typically doesn't spend as much as its pool allocation, although the Indians seem more likely to hang on to their slot values. In 2011, the Indians spent an estimated $3.58 million on international amateur players, so it's possible that they will use their entire $3.64 million pool space. That's beyond what they typically spend, however, so if the Indians are one of the teams that see the 2013 class as a down year, they might be willing to trade off some of their slot values.
Given that the MLB reduced the aggregate international bonus pools from the 2012-13 signing period and left all but seven teams with less than $3 million for their pool allotments, several teams could try to trade for additional pool space. These teams in particular seem like strong candidates to try to acquire other teams' slot values.
Rangers (Pool: $1,942,700)
Between Nomar Mazara ($4.95 million), Jairo Beras ($4.5 million) and Ronald Guzman ($3.45 million), Texas has paid three of the four biggest international amateur bonuses of all-time (Oakland's $4.25 million for Michael Ynoa is the interloper) in the last two years alone. The Rangers could get up to a little above $2.9 million with a trade, which seems an avenue they're likely to pursue.
Yankees (Pool: $1,877,900)
The Yankees finished with the third-best record in baseball in 2012, which means their international bonus pool ranks 28th in baseball. The good news for them is that the difference between their pool and a non-playoff team like the Dodgers at No. 18 is just $235,000, so the significant gap in pool space is mostly between them and the teams at the top of the charts, not the ones in the middle. The Yankees can increase their pool space to up to around $2.82 million through trades.
Dodgers (Pool: $2,112,900)
The Dodgers' new ownership group has opened up the vault. After years of frugality in the international amateur market, the Dodgers have started to invest more overseas, not just on players but by overhauling their international scouting staff as well, led by the hire of Bob Engle. They could work out trades to tack on a little more than an extra $1 million to their pool space and get their pool close to $3.17 million.
Blue Jays (Pool: $2,817,000)
Toronto already has the ninth-highest bonus pool, but Alex Anthopoulos has made the Blue Jays one of the most aggressive spenders on amateur talent since he became general manager. In 2011, the Blue Jays spent an estimated $7.57 million on international amateur signings. Through trades, the Blue Jays could get up to around $4.23 million for their total pool.
Cubs (Pool: $4,557,200)
The Cubs are in a similar starting position as the Astros. They could keep their top slot, trade away their bottom three slots and still have a $3.573 million pool. Or if they wanted to just stand pat, they could spend $4.56 million and have the second-highest pool space of any team in the league. When Theo Epstein was general manager of the Red Sox, Boston spent liberally on Latin American amateur free agents like Jose Vinicio, Michael Almanzar, Oscar Perez, Engel Beltre and Oscar Tejeda, along with big bonuses for Jose Igelsias, Adalberto Ibarra and Juan Carlos Linares in the Cuban market. For the most part, it doesn't look like the Red Sox are going to get much return on those investments (although Xander Bogaerts has so far been a smashing success), but the desire to spend heavily on international free agents will likely continue in Chicago. Based on certain market indications, the Cubs might be willing to trade for additional pool space—they could get up to $6,835,800 in pool space—to spend on what they feel are the best players on the market.