Dominican trainer says the Yankees reneged on an offer to a 16-year-old player

25 Comments

Ben Badler of Baseball America has an interesting story about a complaint raised by a trainer/agent in the Dominican Republic. He says the Yankees had an agreement to sign his 16-year-old client, Christopher Torres, in June for $2.1 million. And that, indeed, the agreement to sign him come June was reached late last year. Then June 2 came around, the Yankees didn’t sign him, every other team’s bonus pool money was dried up and now Torres is in limbo.

The Yankees deny this, saying that while there were discussions, no offer was ever made. The team simply changed its mind and moved on. Worth noting, however, the MLB had a recent meeting with the Yankees about all of this. No one is talking about it, but it’s possible that someone somewhere thinks the Yankees violated the norms of the signing period.

But apart to Torres himself, the dispute itself is not as interesting for what happened here specifically, but for what it shows us about how international signings work in the capped bonus era.

Teams and teenagers reach handshake agreements — or maybe just nods across a room — months in advance. When they do, it gets disseminated through baseball, causing other teams to back off. This dance is happening earlier and earlier because of the limited amount of money MLB allows teams to spend on international free agents these days. Everyone needs to plan more and plan in advance. When teams’ plans change, however, the kids are the ones left with few options.

Some say the solution to all of this is an international draft. Others say that going back to a system where teams are not so severely limited on signing bonuses is the answer. I fall in the latter camp. Ask yourself: if the Yankees truly were high enough on this kid to offer him big dollars, might another team want to swoop in if he became available? They can’t, though, because by then they’re already tapped out.

It’s rough out there. The international signing game is full of crazy incentives and unfortunate stories like this.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

Braves
1 Comment

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.