With the likely winner of the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes becoming a bit more clear, 23 teams now find themselves in an interesting situation. Before Ohtani had narrowed his list, many of those clubs had hoarded their international bonus money for the big moment. Following the announcement of Ohtani’s seven finalists, however, they were left with the capacity to offer free-agent bonuses, but few actual players in whom to invest that money.
Fortunately for them, a fresh set of prospects emerged thanks to the Braves’ indiscretions on the international market. Some teams — including the Angels, Phillies, and Royals — pounced quickly, using funds from the 2018-2019 pool to sign some of the top ex-Braves. Other teams will assuredly put their remaining bonuses to use in this way, taking a chance that these players will thrive in a new system.
There is, of course, one other way in which teams can put their bonus dollars to work, and it’s one that seems to have increased in popularity during this year — namely, by trading the bonus money. The rules for this have changed a few times. Under the terms of the most recent CBA, however, a team can trade away its entire international bonus pool or acquire additional funds up to 75% of their initial pool through trades.
Some teams have taken advantage of this rule to trade substantial portions of their bonus pools, to varying levels of public approval. The last few days, specifically, have seen the remaining teams in the Ohtani sweepstakes make trades to augment their pools.
Is this a smart strategy? Before we disparage or praise teams for using their bonus pools in this fashion, it’s worthwhile to look at what teams are getting with this particular kind of asset.