Matt Garza and 2013 International Free Agency

The 2013 international free agency signing period starts July 2nd (Hey, that's tomorrow!). All international players who turn 16 by August 31st are eligible for free agency. Top prospects from Latin America typically sign shortly after they turn 16. Korean and Taiwanese prospects, on the other hand, are usually not signed until they graduate from high school. Players over the age of 23 such as Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez are typically not associated with this period, as they are not subject to spending limits assigned to teams.

No International Draft?

Despite the best efforts of MLB and the players union, there will be no international draft this year. In what has to be the most underreported story of the year, this seems to have come as a direct result of Dominican and Venezuelan major leaguers supporting a petition in opposition to the draft. I would give those players more credit if I didn't have the sneaking suspicion that a dozen or so buscones threatened their families with acute physical harm lest they throw their bodies in front of the impending draft… though that probably wouldn't have stopped American-born players from squeezing every dime out of future generations… You know what? Fuck it. I'm giving them credit regardless. Foreign-born players: for having a shred of decency and not being completely myopic, this blogger salutes you!

2013 International Free Agency Spending Limits

Despite the lack of a draft, each team is assigned a pool from which they may sign free agents. As with the draft, the Cubs have the second highest bonus pool available, at $4.56 million. The Astros have the largest pool, at $4.94 million, but have not been connected with the bigger available names. 

Teams will actually be allowed to trade for additional funds this year. Personally, I am against this decision because it will result in more leverage and money being funneled into the hands of poor foreign ballplayers and their families be bad for competitive balance! I'm against if because of competitive balance! Their are a few teams, notably The Marlins, who do not invest in Latin America, and are thus likely to trade some of their available space to teams that do. It sounds fairly simple, but it isn't. A few notable restrictions:

  • MLB's Superfluous Quantization Commitee has assigned 120 "slot values" and distributed them amongst teams. These slot values are in no way connected to players that a team might sign, however, if a team wishes to trade for extra spending limits, it must acquire a full slot value or a combination of them from another team. 
  • The Oregon Trail Clause: A team is only allowed to acquire up to 50% of their original bonus pool. If they trade for slot values above that amount, they will have to lop off the excess, leave it in the forest, and carry the additional 50% back to the wagon. The Cubs are thus effectively limited to $6.84 million in spending if they acquire their maximum ration of slots.
  • Slot values are not available in trades until July 2nd. 
  • Slot values from future seasons are not available in trades.
  • No cash considerations can be involved in trades to acquire slots.
  • Additional funds must be acquired by a team through trade prior to that team exceeding their designated bonus pool. Once a team has reached the limit of their pool, they may not trade for more space.

Implications For the Cubs

I present all this minutia here, because despite Theo downplaying the issue,

It's not a huge priority, but we have a strategy with respect to (international free agency), we'll execute it. It doesn't necessarily require us adding pool space.

the Cubs will probably trade for more pool space. The organization has been connected to the closest thing to a consensus #1 in IFA, slugging corner outfielder Eloy Jimenez, who is estimated to require in excess of $2.5 million. They are also considered the favorites for the top Venezuelan, shortstop Gleyber Torres, who has been rumored to require around $2 million. Throw in Erling Moreno (BA #16), Jefferson Mejia, and probably 15 lesser names being pursued by the Cubs, and Theo starts to sound like he's not being completely honest. When word leaked last weak that Matt Garza was likely to be traded well before the deadline, IFA watchers immediately noted the significance.

Add it all up and we might see some significant moves from the organization very soon. It's just as well, from my perspective. Garza is coming off a string a great performances against bad teams, and the last thing this team needs is for him to get hit around or suffer an injury between now and July 31st. Another team to keep an eye on is the Rangers, who have only $1.9 million in available funds, but are heavily involved in the IFA market; they may be competing with the Cubs for available slots.

Keeping Track of the Prospects

Baseball America has excellent scouting reports and video on the their top 30. This fanpost at minorleagueball is also a great resource. OV will keep you updated on signings when they happen.


About GW

contact me at obstructedgw at gmail dot com