Must-Click Link: Scouting 14-year-olds in Latin America

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Ben Badler has an eye-opening report for Baseball America about how teams are scouting and committing to international prospects. Sometimes kids as young as 12 or 13-years-old, with 14-year-olds becoming the norm:

In Latin America, this sight is not unusual. The system now in place with Major League Baseball drives teams to aggressively scout 14-year-old boys, with trainers and agents looking for the next great 12-year-old. Want to sign one of the top 16-year-old players for this year? You’re probably too late. The aggressive nature of international scouting, combined with MLB’s bonus pool system, gives players incentive to reach agreements with teams earlier than ever. The 2014-15 international signing period begins on July 2, but for some teams, it’s already over, and has been for several months. The race is on to sign the top players for 2015.

Competition for talent is one driver, but another driver is the caps on bonuses to international players imposed in the last collective bargaining agreement. With only so much to spend — and with every team given the same amount to spend — the race is on to lock up more players at younger ages for cheaper amounts lest they have to pay way more when the player approaches 16, blowing their budgets. Or, to find out as international signing day comes closer, that no legitimate players are left, leaving them with unused bonus money.

The logistics of it all aside, it seems so unseemly. This exchange captures it for me:

They both look young—too young to be July 2 players for this year. One wears a Nationals shirt and carries a Phillies equipment bag. He looks like he belongs in Little League. He has the mechanics of a child and the arm strength to match.

“He looks like he could be a guy,” said an agent, using the industry nomenclature for a legitimate prospect.

No, he’s a kid. And baseball is treating kids like meat.

It’s a must-read.

Buyers and Sellers at the Trade Deadline: National League East

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With Manny Machado’s trade completed, the rest of baseball can now turn its attention to the non-blue chip players on the market.

Yesterday, in our look-ahead to the second half, we mentioned some of the top players likely to be made available. Today we look at each team to see who is buying, who is selling, what they’re seeking and what they have to offer. Note: almost every contender, always, needs relief help.

As a reminder, the non-waiver Trade Deadline is July 31. Players traded after that date but before August 31 need to pass through waivers unclaimed before they can be traded. All players traded before August 31 are eligible to be on their new team’s playoff roster should they make the postseason.

Next up, the National League East:

Phillies
Status: Buyers. They were a serious contender for Manny Machado until the closing bell.
Wanted: They could really use a third baseman or a shortstop, so expect them to bid hard for Mike Moustakas or Eduardo Escobar should the Twins make him available.

Braves
Status: Buyers. They were in on the Manny Machado talks too but not that in, it seems. They mortgaged their future for a star once when they traded for Mark Teixeira back in the day and weren’t likely to do it again. Aren’t likely to do it even on a smaller scale in the coming weeks.
Wanted: Some bullpen help. A starter if one can be found cheap. A bench bat. They have a loaded farm system and contention wasn’t really supposed to happen until next year, so they’ll be cautious in anything they do.

Nationals
Status: Buyers. They already acquired Kelvin Herrera. They’ll seek to acquire more.
Wanted: Catcher. J.T. Realmuto would be a big get but the Marlins seem to want to build around him or, at the very least, seem to not want to give him to a division rival. There had been talks of a Wilson Ramos reunion, but he was just placed on the DL with a bum hamstring, so that may not be happening.

Mets
Status: Sellers. Probably. They need to figure out where in the hell the organization is heading first. This year is a lost cause, but do they gear up for next year or just burn it all down and try to rebuild?
For Sale: Maybe Noah Syndergaard and/or Jacob deGrom if they take the “burn it all down” approach. If they just try to retrench for next year, they could deal Jerry Blevins and, perhaps, Zach Wheeler or Steven Matz. Jeurys Familia and second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera are both free agents after this year so they could be shopped regardless.

Marlins
Status: Sellers. They’re still in the frame-up portion of their rebuild.
For Sale: Assuming Realmuto does not go, any reliever who isn’t nailed down might be flipped. Put your bids in now for Kyle Barraclough, Drew Steckenrider, Brad Ziegler and Adam Conley. If it’s position players you seek, feel free to ask the Marlins about Starlin Castro, Justin Bour, Derek Dietrich or Miguel Rojas.