Yesterday I shared notes about the 33 players that should sign on or just after July 2nd and project for seven figures. A common question from readers was if their team had other deals I knew of or if they were planning to go over their bonus pool. I saved part two of this series to break down that question with the information I have currently.
First, a note about this year’s class. As I mentioned in my previous July 2nd piece, that this year’s class is above average, especially the depth of seven figure prospects, but the higher top bonuses this year (detailed here) relative to last year (listed here) doesn’t tell the whole story. Most scouts (myself included) would take last year’s top player, Brewers SS Gilbert Lara (Report & Video), who got about $3.1 million (the highest bonus last year) and probably would take last year’s second best player, Rays SS Adrian Rondon (Report & Video) over anyone in the 2015 class.
The difference in bonuses despite slightly lesser talent up top is due to a numbers of factors: this year, more teams are spending their full pools, some teams are still going well over their bonus pools and the deals started very early. Also hurting Lara’s bonus was that the drunken sailor of last year’s period, the Yankees, weren’t on him, so his price didn’t get bid up by them, while the Rays locked up Rondon so early that some teams didn’t get good looks at him. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.(Report & Video) was among the earliest deals in this year’s period, but it looks like he’s getting a retail price for his bonus.
I should also quickly note that because they went over their 2014-2015 international bonus pools, the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Angels and Diamondbacks can’t spend over $300,000 on any international prospects for this upcoming international period (which this article is about) and the next one (in which there are at least two elite talents that have already emerged).
(Almost) Anything is Possible: The Dodgers
Arguably the most interesting team to follow in the next cycle, the Dodgers briefly considered outbidding every team for Red Sox 2B Yoan Moncada and having him be their only elite prospect to show for busting past their pool late in the process. They thought better of it and now look poised to get any Cuban player they want for the next year (like Yadier Alvarez for $16 million plus the dollar-for-dollar penalty), along with some July 2nd players that weren’t locked up when they decided to start splashing in that end of the pool.
I mentioned Starling Heredia ($3 million) and Ronny Brito ($2 million) as the Dodgers expected July 2nd big spends, but both are relatively new news: I only recently heard Heredia’s deal is likely done (though he’s been connected to L.A. for awhile) and heard Brito first connected to the Dodgers last week. So, things can always change and it’s also unclear exactly how big the Dodgers will go, or if they’re going to go after other big ticket players on July 2nd. I haven’t heard about other possible agreements in place for the team and rival clubs believe the Dodgers didn’t have any deals done and were still formulating a plan as recently as a few weeks or a month ago, in the wake of Moncada’s choice.
There’s about 10 seven-figure July 2nd players that aren’t committed, but the Dodgers could still scoop up a few more and also any Cuban that strikes their fancy, so this one is far from over. Their bonus pool is just over $2 million, so, even if they trade for the maximum 50% in additional pool space, that would barely cover Heredia’s bonus; it looks like they’ve already committed to going way over their pool.
Newly Off Probation: The Cubs & Rangers
The Cubs and Rangers went over their pools to a lesser degree, back when some teams hadn’t considered that as a strategy and before the Yankees made headlines by taking that strategy to it’s logical extreme last year. Both teams are coming off the one-year ban (the penalty was lighter two years ago) on signings over $250,000, and both are expected to spend heavily.
Cubs: The Cubs have been tied to the most players during this process and are believed to have agreements with a number of players that should easily send them over their bonus pool. Sources have indicated that these are the deals the Cubs have in place:
1. Aramis Ademan, SS, Dominican, $2 million Video: He’s only 5’10/150, but is a slick fielder with very quick hands and should be able to stick at shortstop, with advanced feel for contact and an active, Ichiro-like cut from the left side.
2. Christopher Martinez, 3B, Dominican, $1.5 million Video: He has solid average raw power and arm strength along with above average bat speed and some looseness at the plate. He also has the hands to play in the infield, though his feet are a little slow at this point.
3. Yonathan Perlaza, SS, Venezuelan, $1.2 million Video: Stout 5’8/175 infielder has a chance to stick at shortstop and is an average runner with below average power, but has a smooth cut that produces among the most hard contact in games in this class.
4. Miguel Amaya, C, Panama, $1.2 million: 6’0/160 lefty hitter has an smooth swing, hits it to all fields with some pop and has the tools to be at least an average catcher.
5. Anderson Amarista, RHP, Venezuela, $1 million Video: 6’0/178 righty sat 85-87 mph when I saw him in February, but has projection and a clean arm, normally sits a few ticks higher, has hit 91 mph and already flashes a solid average curveball
6. Yunior Perez, RHP, Dominican: $650,000: 6’3/175 righty is loose, has a clean arm, projection and sat 90-93 mph when I saw him for a few innings in February. That said, the curveball is below average and I haven’t seen him throw a changeup at all, so he’s still in the early stages.
7. Luis Diaz, SS, Dominican: $350,000: 5’9/155 infielder is a plus runner with a chance to stick at shortstop and below average power, but good feel to hit from the right side.
As I mentioned yesterday, these numbers may be a bit different than the final bonuses and things can still happen, like deals falling apart late for various reasons. I heard about Martinez and Amarista pretty recently and heard the other five players over a month ago. These numbers add up to $7.9 million and the Cubs pool is a little over $3.2 million, meaning they can make trades to boost their pool to just under $5 million, so it appears they are set to go over this year. Scouts think Perez and Diaz, who have the same trainer (Franklin Ferriera), are both signed at nice values while the others are somewhere close to market value.
Rangers: Rival scouts think Texas also got a bit of a late start to planning how to spend their over $4.5 million pool this year, possibly due to losing execs A.J. Preller and Don Welke to San Diego. They’re still rumored to be sniffing around a few more high dollar players and sources indicate they have three deals in place currently.
Yesterday, I explained that I don’t know exactly how much Texas will give Leodys Taveras, but scouts now think the bonus is close to (or is) $3 million. Texas also allegedly has a deal with Dominican RF Jonathan Sierra for $1.2 million (Video), a loose, projectable and prototypical 6’3/205 right fielder that flashes solid average arm strength and above average raw power potential from the left side. I’m also told the Rangers have a deal with 5’10/150 Dominican middle infielder Cristian Inoa, an average runner with instincts and some feel to hit, for $340,000.
Those three deals add up to about $4.5 million, which is about what Texas’ pool is, but, like I said above, scouts see Texas inquiring on the available high-dollar players, so if they don’t go over this year, they’re at least thinking long and hard about it first.
Going Over But Not Excessively: The Royals & Blue Jays
Royals: I know of two anticipated July 2nd deals for the Royals: Seuly Matias for $2.2 million (or maybe a touch more) and Dominican SS Jeison Guzman for $1.3 million. Those two add up to at least $3.5 million and the Royals’ pool is just over $2 million, meaning they could trade for a bit over $3 million in pool space. There’s still a chance that they stay under if one of these numbers ends up a good bit lower than expected, but it looks like Kansas City is going to go over.
Blue Jays: I’m getting asked frequently if the Jays have another deal lined up behind Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. and I still don’t have any evidence that they do. I have Guerrero landing around $4.4 million and the Jays’ pool is a little over $2.3 million, meaning they can trade for space up to a little shy of $3.5 million. Guerrero’s bonus may not be exactly $4.4 million, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be over $3.5 million. I’d expect the Jays to sign another notable player or two to make the most of going over, but fans assume going over means spending many times the team’s pool amount, when it normally means the team found a couple players they really like in a year they didn’t have a ton of money to spend.
Others to Watch
The Padres are a wildcard due to Preller, their internationally-minded and hyper-aggressive new GM. They aren’t believed to have any deals in place now, due in part to a failed run at Moncada that would’ve knocked them out of this market if they landed him. They have almost $2.7 million to spend and could spend it quickly and decisively, even if they haven’t done anything just yet (or I just don’t know about it).
Yesterday, I mentioned that the Mets are believed to have a deal for $1.8 million with Gregory Guerrero and they are also believed to have a deal done for $1.25 million with Venezuelan SS Andres Gimenez (rumored to have been done last August or September). Those two deals would put the Mets over their pool, but still comfortably in the range where they could trade for enough money to cover the difference. The Braves are hot on the trail of Derian Cruz and Cristian Pache, which would send them over, but also in the range that they could cover it with a trade for more bonus space. The Twins have just under $4 million to spend and apparently will spend $4 million on Wander Javier, but I don’t know of other deals, so they could also still stay under pretty easily.
The Mariners have just over $2.1 million to spend and only have one deal believed to be in place, but it’s for $1.8 million with Carlos Vargas, so that would put them in the range where they’ll likely just spend the whole pool but they would go over with one more big signing. The Nationals have just under $2 million to spend and are believed to have a deal for $1.5 million with Juan Soto, so they’re in the same group as the Mariners as likely just spending their full pool, but most of it on one player. Finally, the Phillies have apparently committed $4.2 million to massive slugging LF Jhailyn Ortiz with a pool of just over $3 million. That pool could expand to about $4.5 million and that’s the only deal they have that I’m aware of, so Philly could still stay under their pool with a trade.
As a final note to fans mad that their team isn’t set to spend enough or that don’t see their team mentioned at all: lots of teams succeed internationally in a big way without handing out big bonuses at all and many of the top Latin players in baseball signed late in their teens. There’s still players that will get seven figures that are uncommitted and some of these deals that I’m referencing can still fall apart for various reasons. What I’m saying is calm down. Please, calm down.
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.