Teams have less money to spend on international signings than ever

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Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the money spent on international signings is going down, down, down:

Technically, the aggregate bonus pools for international players rose by 1.2 percent, moving from $78,226,600 to $79,194,000. In reality, the amount that teams will be able to spend on international players is decreasing for the third straight year.

Badler explains that that’s because the multiple $50,000 exemptions for signings that don’t count against the bonus pool is gone starting this year, resulting in a net reduction of overall money available for signings.

There are still incentives for a team to exceed one’s bonus pool and pay the penalties for doing so. But the fact is, Major League Baseball’s policy is clearly aimed at reducing the amount of money teams can spend via the draft and via international signings. Which is a very strange way to go about containing costs — the overall expenditures in these areas are far less than teams spend on free agents — and a hinderance to small-revenue teams looking for the most cost-effective ways to rebuild.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.