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  • International Signing Preview

    Over the course of the last week or so, a lot of news regarding the International Signing Period has come out.

    Up until July of 2012, International Free Agency has been a free-for-all. In the 2010-11 period, the Mariners spent $6.47 million. Four teams spent $5 million or more. Five teams spent less than a million dollars. The Twins, middle-of-the-pack spenders, spent $2.54 million.

    The following spending period (July 2011 - June 2012) was the final opportunity for teams, under the old guidelines, to spend however they wanted. The Rangers spent a ridiculous $12.83 million. The Blue Jays spent $7.57 million. Two more teams (that typically spend more than the Twins), the Royals and Mariners both spent over $6 million. Only three teams spent less than a million dollars (the Dodgers, White Sox, Orioles and Nationals are teams that have limited their International budget recently), while the Twins stayed middle-of-the-pack again, spending $2.31 million.


    Sano undergoing DNA testing in July of 2009
    in an effort to prove his age and identity.

    The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

    Finding accurate data going back much further is difficult, but it should be pointed out that Miguel Sano signed with the Twins for $3.15 million in September of 2009. That is clearly the exception and not the rule. It would be safe to say their budget is normally in the $2.5 million range; and while they won't "spend just to spend", they will open their pocketbooks for players they feel are worth it.

    So what's the big deal? Well, starting in the July 2012 - June 2013 period, all teams had $2.9 million to spend. It wasn't a "hard cap" per se, but there were penalties if you exceeded that amount. (The Rays, for example, exceeded their cap by so much they won't be able to sign anyone for over $250,000 in the 2013-14 signing class.) Final amounts won't be in until June, but Terry Ryan said in a radio interview earlier this winter that he "suspected" the Twins would use most, if not the entire amount.

    Let's fast-forward to July of this year. First off, let's hope there is no more snow on the ground. Secondly, let's talk about the changes that have happened (again) in regard to International spending. Ben Badler of Baseball America does a great job in a series of posts explaining exactly how it will all work. Matt Garrioch at minorleagueball.com examined the fairness of the "new spending pools". All are excellent reads if you're into it.

    Instead of giving you the overview on all of baseball, I'm going to break it down for you from the Twins perspective because, well, that's why you're here.

    As baseball pushes towards an International Draft, you'll see similarities between the International spending period and the Rule 4 draft. For starters, there are penalties for exceeding your pool. And starting this year, the worst teams are allowed the largest pools. The Twins have the 4th pick in the Rule 4 draft; they also are being afforded the fourth-largest spending pool in International Free Agency: $3,908,600. (This is done in an effort to steer the most sought-after amateurs to the teams with the most money - the worst teams.)

    Now, I referenced the Twins as not being a "spend-it-just-to-spend-it" team and also referred to their penchant to typically spend somewhere around $2.5 million. So what good does it do them to have nearly four million dollars?

    I'm glad you want to know, because here's the newest (and, for the Twins, probably most beneficial) wrinkle for signing International youngsters: the ability to trade portions of your signing pool.

    The Twins will enter July with five slots:
    #4 - $2,250,700
    #34 - $450,400
    #64 - $304,200
    #94 - $203,300
    Flat pool - $700,000

    All teams have a standard 700K pool that they cannot trade, in addition to their four slots. Teams are limited to only adding 50% of their cap. So if the Twins were interested, they could add an additional $2 million to their signing pool through trades.

    A more likely scenario could see the Twins dealing some of their pool away. Badler suggests in this piece that the Twins could trade all but slot #4 and still have $3 million to spend.

    Here are a of couple scenarios that might give you an idea of how this could benefit the Twins:

    The Rangers currently have a pool just short of $2 million. They could add up to half of that to have a pool of $2.9 million (their limit this year, which they found a way to circumvent anyway).

    The Blue Jays, who have spent nearly $12 million over the last two years, have only $2.8 million to spend, but could get their pool up to $4.2 million through trades.

    If it's July and the Twins aren't in contention and the Rangers or Blue Jays come sniffing around Justin Morneau or Josh Willingham, this could give the Twins a chance to turn part of their pool (and money they probably wouldn't spend anyway) into a prospect. Or maybe it turns a prospect into a better prospect. Pretty good shake for the Twins, if you ask me.

    Obviously, July 2 is a long way off, but when the time comes, the Twins are going to have money to spend. The name that is already connected to the Twins is OF Micker Zapata. Zapata is a big (6-3, 225) outfielder currently training in the Dominican Republic. Zapata, however, is a very rare commodity in the International class: He was born in St. Thomas, grew up speaking English and will have that advantage as he tries to adjust to affiliated baseball (and probably play in the GCL at 17). The Twins place an emphasis on learning the language. They also, recently, have placed an emphasis on right-handed power. Zapata fits this bill perfectly. Zapata might be in line for a bonus in the $1.5-$1.75 range and the Twins are going to be one of the few teams in baseball with the cash to meet those demands.

    Despite early reports suggesting this international class isn't going to be a great one, it can only benefit the Twins to have assets available when assets are limited.
    This article was originally published in blog: International Signing Preview started by Jeremy Nygaard
    Comments 204 Comments
    1. Larsbars08's Avatar
      Larsbars08 -
      Is there any word on where last years big international free agent signing, Amaurys Minier, will be playing. I assume he's in extended spring training, but will he start in the DSL or GCL?
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      Like Sano, Minier will probably start the year in the DSL, with a chance to make a late-season appearance in the GCL.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      JN, since 2013 is probably going to be the last year without a draft, might it be smarter for the Twins to leverage their big bonus pool and just spam a bunch of international signees? Maybe even, be the buyers in a bonus-pool trade scenario?
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      My hope is that they spend most of it but I doubt the Twins sign more than one guy in the 1-2M range.
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      Awesome article. Nice to know some names before we get to that July signing day. I think a draft would add some extra excitement to the process.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      They have plenty of cash, I hope they use it.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Nygaard View Post
      Like Sano, Minier will probably start the year in the DSL, with a chance to make a late-season appearance in the GCL.
      IIRC Sano played only a few games in DSL in 2010 and spent most of the season in GCL. Given that the DSL season start before the GCL, I am not sure for how many games Sano was playing in DSL after the GCL season started . Also, IIRC, he made the trip and league change with Jorge Polanco (who was signed that year), so there might have been practical issues like visas to delay the start in GCL.

      Bottom line is that if Minier is in FL now, he likely will start in GCL. If not, likely in DSL.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      While the Twins could trade away some International allowence to leverage a better deal from a prospective mid season trade, they also could leverage a better deal the traditional way. Eat some salary of the vet being traded. This team needs to stop looking for new ways to not spend money.
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Spend it all or trade it all, i dont care. Just don't leave any money on the table. This is one more asset the Twins get and need to be smart with it. Lots of teams are going to be looking for extra money.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      Twins need to spend this money and maybe more, if the draft starts next year, then we need to buy players for the future. It never hurts to have a great farm system
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      I find the whole idea of a draft really weird. The top 25 or so guys are all well known and scouted by almost every team but after that it seems like the world is too big of a place to adequately cover. Even getting through the 1st rd could result in difficult picks. Would a team use a top ten pick on Luis Gohara even if they didn't have any scouts in Brazil that had seen him play? To what lengths will teams hide players so they don't show up on other team's radars.

      I also find this whole slotting thing strange. So basically the Twins can splurge on one really big FA and then only 400ish K on their #2 guy. These are of course recommendations since it's not a hard slotting but it does give the Twins a really good chance at landing on of the top prospects. Half of the teams don't even have an overall bonus pool that matches the Twins 2.25M slot which they can exceed since it is only a recommendation.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      One thing I neglected to mention, the pools in this "free agency" and the pools in the draft work the same, they aren't a "hard" slot. Meaning the Twins could split up their pool in whatever way they would like.

      (I posted this after reading the first of kab21's two paragraph's. After reading the second.. yes, he's exactly right. The Twins will definitely be in the mix for whoever they think is the most talented. Something not always possible before.)
    1. TRex's Avatar
      TRex -
      I think it will really be interesting how clubs go about 'trading' the International signing bonus money... and don't forget that the 'competitive balance' draft picks can also be traded.

      As one example, would the Marlins (who are always active in the international market) be willing to trade the 37th pick of the draft (and the ~$1,400,000 slot) for $1.4 million on the international market? Sounds like a nice way for the pitching-starved Twins to take a chance on a polished college pitcher (ala Scott Baker).
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      Interesting thought, but it can't happen. International money can only be traded once free agency begins (July 2). In regards to that 37th pick, I believe they acquired it in a trade, and those picks can only be traded once.

      It may be possible to hold on to some of the int'l pool until next April, when they could maybe trade it for a comp. balance pick (only tradable during the season).

      I like where your head's at though.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      JN, since 2013 is probably going to be the last year without a draft, might it be smarter for the Twins to leverage their big bonus pool and just spam a bunch of international signees? Maybe even, be the buyers in a bonus-pool trade scenario?
      Yeah, that mindset makes sense, though I doubt the Twins add to this pool when they'll already be one of the bigger spenders in the draft. Having such a high pick last year (plus the rest of their picks plus International guys) cost the Twins almost $14 million. (They're not sniffing $10 million most years.) All of that spending might be one of the reasons that the team's payroll was reduced this season.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      IIRC Sano played only a few games in DSL in 2010 and spent most of the season in GCL. Given that the DSL season start before the GCL, I am not sure for how many games Sano was playing in DSL after the GCL season started . Also, IIRC, he made the trip and league change with Jorge Polanco (who was signed that year), so there might have been practical issues like visas to delay the start in GCL.

      Bottom line is that if Minier is in FL now, he likely will start in GCL. If not, likely in DSL.
      Sano and Polanco were moved up on July 4. Sano played 20 games before moving to the GCL (who's season starts about a week after the draft) and played 41 there. The Twins won't be any more aggressive with Minier. Maybe 50/50 between the two leagues.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Honestly given the Twins record, they should have been one of the top spenders in FA and landed whatever they liked. I'm a bit disappointed they did not. That said, I hope they either spend their allotment, or trade it for a decent prospect. I have no issue with tem adding part of their bonus pool to another team to get a higher ceiling prospect assuming of course they aren't terribly high on what they'd be signing.
    1. drjim's Avatar
      drjim -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      Honestly given the Twins record, they should have been one of the top spenders in FA and landed whatever they liked. I'm a bit disappointed they did not. That said, I hope they either spend their allotment, or trade it for a decent prospect. I have no issue with tem adding part of their bonus pool to another team to get a higher ceiling prospect assuming of course they aren't terribly high on what they'd be signing.
      What are you talking about? They have consistently been at least a top ten spender and they landed one of the highest profile prospects of the past decade in Sano. Just because they didn't throw around ridiculous money doesn't mean they failed to target and sign prospects that they liked. I would also note that since 2009 (when I started tracking) they have always signed at least one (and usually two or three) of the top prospects listed by BA and they have been among the best in Australia and the emerging markets in Europe.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      diehard is still believes the Twins are in the pre-Sano (pre-Target Field) mindset. Something changed that year and although I don't recall the Twins spending 1M+ (on one prospect) for a couple of years they were significantly more active internationally after that.
    1. drjim's Avatar
      drjim -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      diehard is still believes the Twins are in the pre-Sano (pre-Target Field) mindset. Something changed that year and although I don't recall the Twins spending 1M+ (on one prospect) for a couple of years they were significantly more active internationally after that.
      I think what changed was that Target Field along with increased revenues was on the horizon resulting in a subsequent increase in all budgets. The franchise finally had the ability to compete for the top prospects that they wanted. In the same time frame also they started going over slot a little bit more in the draft. These are not coincidences.
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