Ben Badler at Baseball America published the 2015/2016 international bonus pools for every major league team and the Blue Jays are looking to blow right by their allotted figure.
I’m actually really interested in the goings on of the this upcoming International Free Agent bonanza because, thanks to the new rules that were instituted in the last CBA, there are serious penalties for exceeding your bonus pool. First of all, there’s a tax of 100% on any team that exceeds their pool by 15% (i.e., they spend 115% of their pool allotment on bonuses). This is coming into play this season with the Red Sox’ reported signing of Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada to a bonus worth about $31.5 million which, because the Red Sox have already exceeded their 2014/15 pool, will cost an additional $31.5 million that will go to MLB as their tax.
Another repercussion for going more than 15% over the international bonus pool cap is that the offending team can’t sign players for any bonuses over $300,000 for the next two years. In 2015/16 there will be five teams, most of whom have been major players in the international market over the past decade, that are restricted to bonuses of $300,000 or less and they include the Arizona Diamondbacks (who have the largest pool total), the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays.
What does this mean for the Blue Jays? The Jays have a $2.324,100 bonus pool that they can dish out in the 2015/16 international free agent period that begins on July 2 (there are some exemptions against the cap that cover bonuses under $7,500 and the six highest bonuses of $50,000 or less don’t count against the cap*). They appear to be ready to “almost definitely” go over the cap (according to Kiley McDaniel). McDaniel has written that the Blue Jays are reported to have an agreement to sign Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. to a bonus of $3.2 million, which will totally blow out their pool figure with that bonus alone. So the Blue Jays will be paying penalties on just over half a million dollars without signing anyone else.
Now that they’re going to be in the penalty and won’t be able to hand out bonuses in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 international free agent seasons (which, according to McDaniel, is a strategic choice, since the rules will probably change in the next CBA that comes in 2016), it’s probably a good idea for the Jays to go for broke and try to pick up as many of the top international prospects in the 2015/16 year as they can. Since the rules will likely change and this may be one of the last chances that teams can simply buy players as free agents (particularly if an international draft is instituted) and they’re already going exceed the cap, they might as well get as much top-tier talent that they can.
Another reason that the Jays should go for broke is that there will be less competition. With the Yankees, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Angels and Rays limited to $300,000 bonuses or less, there are five fewer teams against whom the Jays will have to bid, leaving a greater chance to tie up some of the better players.
What do you think? Should the Jays go for broke this year for international free agents?
* These figures may be out of date – they come from 2012/13.
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