Today is July 2nd, which means the 2017-2018 window for MLB teams to sign international players has opened. Here are some basic rules and an open discussion thread to follow along as the day progresses.
International signing rules apply to players who reside outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico (in other words, players not eligible for the normal MLB Draft).
An international player is eligible to sign from July 2nd through June 15th of the following year, assuming he is 16 or will turn 16 before September 1st.
Foreign players who are at least 25 years old and have played in a professional foreign league (as determined by MLB) for at least six years are exempt from the bonus pool limitations. This includes most players from Japan or Cuba.
As a practical matter most players who sign under the international bonus pool rules are from Latin America, most commonly the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, with an occasional player from Europe or the Asian countries of the Pacific Rim mixed in. Most of them are 16 or 17 years old although there are occasional older exceptions.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement every team will get at least $4,750,000 to sign international prospects. However, teams that receive a competitive balance pick in the regular MLB Draft have slightly larger pools, to prevent the richest teams from hogging all the talent.
The new CBA has “hard cap” bonus pools which teams are not allowed to exceed. However, penalties for exceeding bonus pools under the previous CBA carry over to the new one. Currently, the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, and Washington Nationals cannot sign any player for an individual bonus larger than $300,000, although the total amount of their bonus pool is not reduced.
THE BONUS POOLS:
$5,750,000: Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals ($300,000 maximum per player penalty due to overspending under previous CBA), Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals (under penalty), San Diego Padres (under penalty).
$5,250,000: Cincinnati Reds (under penalty), Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics (under penalty), Tampa Bay Rays
$4,750,000: Atlanta Braves (under penalty), Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs (under penalty), Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros (under penalty), Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers (under penalty), New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants (under penalty), Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Washington Nationals (under penalty).
****Baseball America’s international coverage, led by Ben Badler, is outstanding in every way and a must-read if you want to know what’s happening.
****MLB.com has scouting reports on the Top 30 international prospects, also a must-read.