July second marks the beginning of the 2014-15 international free agent signing period. From tomorrow through next June 15th amateur players who are oe will be 16 years old by September first and reside outside of the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada may sign with any team. I went into detail about the rules last year but as a reminder, each team is allotted a pool of money based on their position at the end of last season. The Braves are allowed to spend $1,897,900 which they may spend anyway they want. There are penalties in place for going over their allotted funds but not serious enough to deter big spenders like the Yankees and Cubs. The penalties simply restrict the amount of bonus money the team may pay the following year; they get the allocated amount they just can’t spend it- more later. Every team starts with $700,000 and are then given four slot values from 1 ($3,300,900) through 120 ($137,600). The Braves the slot values are:
- First slot # 28 in the pool - $495,400
- Second slot # 58 in the pool – $334,600
- Third Slot # 88 in the pool - $225,000
- Fourth Slot # 118 in the pool -$142,000
- Remaining base allocation - $700,000
They can spend it all on one slot if they wish, the slot amounts are used for a different purpose; trading. Unlike the internal amateur draft teams may trade for up to 50% more pool dollars but of course it isn’t simple; teams have to acquire the extra money by trading for slots that add up to the money they wish to spend. If a team needs another $200,000 they simply ask around until they find another team that has it and isn’t going to use it. They then offer a player in exchange for the slot dollars. Teams that exceeded their allowance last year and are bonus restricted this year are at the top of that list but may also drive a hard bargain. You obviously need what they gave to trade – pool money authorization they can’t spend – and will want value for it. The team needing the pool money must be willing to give up a player – how good depends on how much and how badly they want permission to over spend – for the chance to make an international free agent signing of a 16 year old kid. Got all that? Good, there will be a quiz later.
What can we expect
As I wrote last year, the Braves have a long tradition of signing international free agents, Christian Bethancourt was one in 2008 as was Julio Teheran in 2007 and Luis Avilan 2005. They once had an extensive network that helped them pluck stars like Andruw Jones from the less scouted international landscape for modest sums of money but times have changed. According to Ben Badler at Baseball America (subscription required), the Braves might well issue their first seven digit bonus check to a 16 year old Venezuelan this year.
Ricardo Petit’s program in Venezuela has provided the Braves with several players in recent years, including shortstop Jose Peraza (who might be the best prospect in their farm system) and outfielder Victor Reyes, an all-star in the low Class A South Atlantic League. . . .This year Ricardo Petit’s best player is third baseman Juan Yepez, who early on looked like he was going to end up with the Marlins for a mid six-figure bonus. Now the industry belief is that the Braves are willing to blow that away and go in the $1 million territory to get him. That would make Yepez their biggest signing, with targets beyond him uncertain.
. . . Yepez’s heavy frame (6 feet, 195 pounds) had some scouts concerned that he would have to move to first base, but he’s worked to get himself into better condition. He’s an offensive-minded player with a quick hands, good bat speed, a loose right handed stroke and balance at the plate, though scouts were mixed on his game hitting and approach. He has solid power that should increase with the strength projection in his frame. He has a good arm and some scouts think he can play third base, while others still wonder whether he might end up moving to first.
Kily McDaniel over at MLB Scout is . . . well less than enthused about the money being rumored for Yepez even though he has him at 21 in his top 30
Subject of some crazy late rumors with multiple teams apparently in for seven figures, possibly as high as $1.5 million, despite mixed reports that say plus raw power is only notable tool.
That’s a lot of money for a 16 year old ball player we may not see for seven years. After Yepez (I don’t know if he’s related to career minor league catcher Jose Yepez but it might explain why we still have him on our roster) there’s not much information about anyone. The important thing to remember in all of this is that signing kids just barely old enough to drive is like fishing with a seine. You scoop up a lot of fish and some may be big enough to take home.
Last year’s signings
In my post from last year I listed 10 reported signings but following up it appears we only signed nine of those; Luis Perez signed with the Pirates. All are playing Dominican Summer League ball except Jose Pina who is currently with the Gulf Coast League Braves. Statistics are largely meaningless at this point in their careers but for those interested I present what I’ve found.
|Luis Enrique Barrios||17||LHP||FRk||8.47||7||17||20||21||16|
|Luis Enrique Barrios||BB||SO||WP||BF||WHIP||H9||BB9||SO9||SO/W|
That’s A Wrap
There won’t be nearly the coverage of the international free agent signing period as there was of the draft. The news will swirl around those who are older than 23 and can receive unlimited money and any Cuban defectors who manage to bet through. Until this year the CBA allowed players with at least three years of professional ball and are age 23 to be considered professionals thus exempt from the bonus pool restrictions. Now however players must have five years of pro ball as well as being 23 or older to be exempt. I don’t expect the Braves to trade anyone for more pool money unless it’s a warm body type minor league player. Fiscally trading a good player that means paying twice the amount for the same product with a questionable future. If the Braves aren’t projecting to spend all of there allocation – if Yepez gets his $1M they will – they could trade some for a prospect. I don’t expect that to happen either. We’ll track signings here at the Take and keep you as up to date as possible. Oh about that quiz. . . forget it I’m too tired to grade them anyway.