It's that time of year again. It's July 2nd and the International Free Agency period is beginning. The majority of the young sixteen year old prospects out Latin America will sign today and begin their professional careers.
It's a big deal in Latin America. This is one of very few opportunities for these kids to change their life fortunes and remove themselves from poverty. Many of them look forward to this day more than any other day they could ever dream of. If you don't know what I mean, you need to watch the documentary called Pelotero. It involves an Astros prospect, so there's another incentive to watch.
However, the whole situation brings desperate attempts to beat the system and boils down to fraud. Pelotero really shows how this goes about. But, the truth really is that this is what they build their dreams around. Baseball.
They live with trainers in poor and rundown facilities just for a chance. Many don't see their families growing up because all they do is train for baseball. Really, many trainers don't even charge for their services. They bank on their players getting signed and getting as much as 35% of their players bonus in return to continue their program. All that includes covering food and housing.
This year offers another set of rules to the signing period. Last year, everyone was on equal ground with spending caps. Now, it's in reverse order, similar to the draft. For each slot over what is essentially four rounds, there is a value assigned to it and the total is your bonus pool. If you need a better understanding, BA did a great job here.
That leaves the Astros with 4.9 million dollars to spend. The most in baseball.
But, this money is tradeable. Teams can trade the value of their slot for anything except cash. However, a team cannot trade for more than 50% of their cap room. That means a team with one million in cap room can only receive 500k in return. A trade has to involve the full slot value. The money that exceeds the receiving teams allowance, just disappears.
Most reports are that the Astros will not go all in on any player. So, don't get your hopes up for Eloy Jimenez. It's not gonna happen. The likely scenario is that they spread the money around and sign several prospects and likely won't exceed one million on any single prospect. If they do, it's just once. One report I saw was that they are in on as many as eight or nine prospects that are likely to sign today. They are surely to be more aggressive this year, just not aggressive in overspending on such high risk prospects. History suggests that you can get as much value out of lower bonus' in IFA in comparison to high bonus'.
However, the money doesn't have to be spent today. The money can be spent all the way until sometime next year. And, the six highest bonus' of $50,000 and less don't count toward the cap. Also, you can sign an unlimited amount of prospects for $10,000 or less (7,500 last year).
There haven't been a lot of reports of the Astros being on any particular prospect outside of Jose Herrera. But, the consensus is that the Diamondbacks have him all but locked up. He is the best catcher in this year's class.
Note: This article will be updated with rumors/signings as they come in.
- Astros acquire second basemen Ronaldo Torreyes from Cubs for their second and third international signing bonus slots.
- Shortstop/Outfielder Osvaldo Duarte
- Shortstop/Catcher Jonathan Matute
- Shortstop Joan Mauricio (First reported by BA)
- Centerfielder Nestor Tejada