Yesterday saw the opening of the 2015-2016 signing window for major league teams to sign international free agents. There has already been a rash of activity, summarized here. Also check Nick Melotte's outstanding spreadsheet with international signings for every team for this year and going back to 2012.
As expected, several teams are blowing past their bonus pool limits, the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers most notably. This sets them up for penalty restrictions for the next two years, unable to sign any player for more than $300,000 in the next two signing windows, though under current rules the actual bonus pool amount they have to work with doesn't decrease.
If an international draft becomes part of the next collective bargaining agreement, it is expected that any team still in the penalty phase at that time will lose appropriate draft slots, so over-spending in 2015 and 2016 will still be penalized under the subsequent CBA in 2017 and later. Teams won't be able to game the system, at least in that way.
Let's say you are a team that is willing to go well over the bonus limit this year and incur penalties the next two seasons. What is the best way to maximize the benefit? The Cubs, for example, have to this point signed five players for $1,000,000 or more each. The Giants, in contrast, blew their entire budget and entered the penalty phase to get one player, Lucius Fox, for $6,000,000.
Let's say for the sake of argument that you are running a team and have convinced your ownership to spend $6,000,000 dollars this year and accept the appropriate penalties in the next two years. Is it best to:
***Spend most of this on one player like Lucius Fox?
***Spread it out among three or four players with over $1,000,000 bonuses each?
***Or sign one player for $1,000,000, then a whole bunch of guys in the $300,000-$500,000 range?
Put another way, would you rather have
***Lucius Fox at $6,000,000?
***Wander Javier at $4,000,000 and Daniel Montano (or someone similar) at $2,000,000?
***Four prospects in the Juan Soto/Gregory Guerrero class at $1,500,000 each?
***Ten players in the $500,000-$600,000 class?
Or any other way you want to divide it?