New Astros GM says the Rangers are spending like “drunken sailors” in Latin America

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UPDATE: Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow told Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle that he shouldn’t have used “drunken sailors” to describe the Rangers’ activity in Latin America. He also clarified his comments by saying that his point “was more about the magnitude of their investment prior to future limitations. Not saying it’s a bad strategy but one that many teams can’t afford.”

Hey, can’t blame the Rangers for getting while the getting is good. Luhnow would probably do the same if he was in the same spot as Daniels.

8:01 PM: The Astros and Rangers play in the same state and will soon be in the same division, but they shouldn’t exactly be considered rivals. Not yet, anyway. However, new Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow fired a shot across the bow earlier this afternoon in reference to the back-to-back American League champions.

Luhnow, who was in attendance for the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT, said that the Rangers are spending like “drunken sailors” in Latin America thanks to a new television contract.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News spoke with Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels, who responded to Luhnow’s comment by saying the following:

“I couldn’t be more proud of what our scouts and coaches have accomplished with the support of ownership. No need to respond to comments like that.”

Rangers’ president Nolan Ryan also refused to take the bait:

“I wish I had something witty to say,” Ryan said. “But my mother always told me that if I don’t have anything nice to say than to just be quiet.”

The Rangers have been pretty aggressive in Latin America over the past year, signing Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin to a five-year, $15.5 million deal last May and Dominican outfielders Ronald Guzman ($3.5 million) and Nomar Mazar ($5 million) a few months later. But they really ruffled some feathers among MLB executives earlier this week by agreeing to sign Dominican outfielder Jairo Beras for $4.5 million when many teams believed he was only 16 years old and thus ineligible to sign until July 2, which is when the new international spending cap goes into effect. The signing is currently being investigated by MLB.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.