Changes Coming to International Free Agency

The Pirates spent $2.6 M on Luis Heredia in 2010.

We’ve heard a lot about the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks as it pertains to the draft and free agency.  Melissa Segura of Sports Illustrated tweeted a CBA update on the changes that could be coming to the international market.  Segura reports that the new CBA is said to include a hard cap and floor for international signings.

This raises a lot of questions, specifically centering around the definition of “international signings”.  I assume this means players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and the other usual sources of international talent.  I wouldn’t imagine this would include Japan or Cuba, since those players are seen more as MLB free agents, rather than international free agents.  The current prices for the Japanese and Cuban talent would make it impossible to impose a cap, especially when you talk about a guy like Yu Darvish, who could make $100 M.

Neither a cap nor a floor would really affect the Pirates.  They’ve spent on the international market the last few years, but haven’t dominated the spending like they have in the draft.  The only year a cap would have really affected them would have been in 2010, when they spent $5 M, with $2.6 M going to Luis Heredia.  This past year they spent $2.3 M on reported bonuses, although that figure only includes the bonuses paid to Harold Ramirez, Elvis Escobar, Cesar Lopez, and Leandro Rodriguez.

I’m more supportive of limiting spending in the international market than I am in the draft.  Teams hold exclusive negotiating rights with their draft picks.  The Pirates don’t have to worry about teams like the Yankees in the draft.  In the international market, a team like the Yankees could easily outbid the Pirates on a player if they really wanted the guy.  In 2010 the Yankees spent $5.27 M on international free agents, which was $270 K more than the Pirates.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • MarcH

    I just see this as another way to hinder the smaller market teams.  The Yankees/BoSox don’t typically get into the DR, Mexico, etc. because they have to wait on their return, imo.  That’s why they tend to sign guys from Cuba or Japan, those players are ready now, again imo.

    If they are going to make an international free agency cap/floor, it has to be a true international rule, and it must include Japan and Cuba.

    I can’t believe the smaller market owners are willing to accept changes to the draft that will take away their only advantage over the larger market owners and now they might let themselves be curtailed in the int’l market to help the larger market owners. 

    Baseball is very, very sick.

    • Tim Williams

      That’s not true for the Yankees. They’re constantly at the top of the international spending. They just don’t go in to it with the same approach as they do with free agency where they want a player, they get a player. For example, take Sano. For all of the complaints about how the Pirates should have paid whatever it took to make the deal, the Yankees were also interested. However, they weren’t interested enough to outbid the Pirates, much less give whatever it took to sign him. Of course, that might be a matter of preference, because they signed catcher Gary Sanchez for $3 M the same year.

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