International free agency is difficult, to say the least. The rules are different depending on where you’re coming from and what your age is and certain teams have more money to spend in international free agency than other teams.
When you add in the fact that teams have been known to create handshake deals and off-the-record payments with trainers of some of the best young players to offset some perceived missing money from a signing bonus it makes understanding this extremely important aspect of the game that much more difficult.
Some of the game’s best players from Ronald Acuna to Luis Robert to Julio Urias to Shohei Ohtani have been signed using these international signing rules, but even those three players all had different rules that governed their signings despite being contemporaries.
The rules that exist for IFA signings today can basically be summed up with the following highlights:
1. Each team will have a $4.75 million dollar bonus pool to spend unless
A. The team has a Competitive Balance Round A draft pick ($5.25 million)
B. The team has a Competitive Balance Round B draft pick ($5.75 million)
2. International Amateurs are defined as:
A. A player outside of the US, Canada or Puerto Rico
B. A player that is at least 16 years old
3. Foreign Professionals are defined as:
A. A player that is at least 25 years old
B. A player that’s played in a foreign professional league for at least six seasons
C. If a foreign professional is coming from the NPB (Japan) or the KBO (Korea) teams interested in
signing those players will not only have to pay the signing bonus to the player, but they’ll also
have to pay the posting fee to the team the player will be leaving
4. Teams that exceed their bonus pools have the highest offer that they can make to next year’s crop
of IFA talent reduced
5. Players signed from Mexico have their bonuses count only half of the value of the bonus against
the team’s pool. For example, if there is an incredible Mexican outfielder the Chicago Cubs could sign him to a $9 million dollar bonus but he’d only count $4.5 million against their bonus pool.
International amateurs are subject to the bonus pool whereas foreign professionals are not. This is so interesting because Julio Urias came from Mexico. Shohei Ohtani could have waited a couple of years and instead of signing a $2.3 million dollar bonus, he could have signed for $100s of millions of dollars.
So as we dive into some of the available international free agents available this year it’s important to remember several things:
1. There are some real stars that come from this portion of team-building.
2. Not every sixteen-year-old will become a star, regardless of their signing bonus.
3. The Cubs included some of their bonus pool in the deal that dumped Adrian Sampson to the Rays in exchange for Josh Roberson.
All that being said, who are some of the Foreign Professionals that the Cubs should be targeting this year?