On Wednesday, the Associated Press announced the remaining international bonus pool totals in an article about Japanese superstar Shohei Otani. The point of the article was to show which team could afford to give him the highest bonus. While it would be nice to dream about the Pittsburgh Pirates signing Otani, a small difference (in baseball terms) between bonus pools likely isn’t going to be the deciding factor for where he signs. If he was that worried about the amount he will make short-term, there are cities that would provide him with better marketing opportunities to make up the bonus difference and then some.

What we are interested in here is the remaining bonus pool money for the Pirates.  Okay, you’re still interested in Otani, so here is a tidbit to add in to the AP numbers. The Pirates currently have $2,266,750 remaining in their bonus pool, which is now a hard cap. What the AP article doesn’t add in is the fact that teams can trade for up to 75% of their original bonus pool. That means the Pirates could technically give him as much as a $6,579,250 bonus if they could find teams willing to trade enough pool money to reach that total.

Now, back to that $2,266,750 amount. We recently posted our international signing tracker, which had just nine bonuses listed for the 28 players signed. The difference between the known bonuses and what the Pirates paid the other 19 players is $1,268,250. So while we didn’t learn specifics for the remaining 19 unknown bonuses, we do know what the Pirates spent on those players…sort of.

If the Pirates signed any of those other 19 players for $10,000 or less, it wouldn’t be included in that number. That may or may not have happened, but there is one difference that is certain. The Pirates signed three players out of Mexico this year. Players in Mexico receive 25% of their bonus and their team in Mexico receives the rest of it. Only the 25% counts against the bonus pool.

As an example, assume that those three players signed for $100,000 each. The Pirates would have spent $300,000 total on them, but the bonus pool would only reflect the $75,000 given to the players. That doesn’t really matter for anything other than accuracy sake and maybe you just learned something new.

I don’t believe Otani is considering the Pirates and they have never been linked that I know of, so that remaining bonus total can do two things for the Pirates at this point. Any player eligible to sign right now is on their market. If some 16/17-year-old takes a big jump in his progress between now and June 15th (the signing deadline), the Pirates have money available to sign him. If you’ve followed the high school side of the amateur draft with 18-year-old kids, you know a ton of progress can be made in a very short time, so that obviously pertains to the next seven months on the international side.

The flip side would be that there is zero reason to hold on to international money and not spend it. The money represents a trade asset and it’s something that 29 other teams could be interested in, either part of it or all of it. Not spending it or trading it is a waste of an asset. There is no rollover with international money.

So you can look at it three ways now. The Pirates have a chance to sign a breakout international player (or players) over the next seven months. They also have a trade asset to help them acquire a player. Or if you’re just a dreamer, they can go all in for Otani. I personally believe you’ll see a little go to signing players and almost all of the rest of it go in a trade or trades.

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  1. It would be prudent to trade away our International pool and reap the rewards. Enough teams will need that money for Otani make them pay for it by spending top prospects to get it or young controllable talent. Yeah I know that sounds bad but it would be more beneficial for us to do that then sit back and get Sanoed again.

  2. truthfully all this shows is that the Pirates are a cheap shit organization that will not spend a significant sum on any international prospect. Forget them signing Otani, he will go to an AL team where he can DH and pitch. If they had 2 million to spend they could of spent it on some quality player or players, instead of giving 10,000 to a bunch of roster fillers with no chance in hell of ever getting to the majors. Sad but true state of this organization. At least they reupped the management team for another 4 years of losing.

  3. Unless the pirates have a signee in mind it would be nice to use the money towards a trade to fill a need in the bullpen or infield.

      • Must have misread this. I guess Texas can’t trade players to the pirates to get up to 75% of their pool That means the Pirates could technically give him as much as a $6,579,250 bonus if they could find teams willing to trade enough pool money to reach that total.

    • Ugh, I call this “The Orioles Way”, and I don’t like it.

      I mean, I get where you’re going with it and that you hedged it nicely, but this amount of money isn’t going to get much in return.

      • I’m relying on the narrative that pre having more bonus money they had already reached unofficial agreements and we’re basically set then MLB awarded them extra money with no one lined up to give it to and likely not being in on the otonei bid why shouldn’t they leverage the rangers and Yankees against each for a return with money they never intended to use.It’s also a unique situation because of otonei. Also possible they go back to the old posting rules and this is moot.

  4. I don’t follow this nearly as closely as the other individuals who have posted here, but I will say I’ve been extremely disappointed with what the Pirates have done signing Latin players over the last four or five years. I feel sorry for Rene Gayo because he must feel that he’s got one hand tied behind his back. There are a lot of kids he can only dream about signing.

    • I don’t know how true it is, but there was plenty of rumors that Gayo was the one who screwed up on the Sano deal. He would’ve been nice to have.

  5. I can’t see any reason not to make a solid pitch to Otani, but it would be great if they could trade the bonus money to Seattle or Texas.

    The ability to trade that money relies on other teams belief that Otani can be swayed by $1M-$2M at this point. Not sure that’s the case.

  6. They had the resources to compete for the top LA talent from this pool, unless they are linked to some prominent guys that aren’t yet eligible to sign, this is a bad indication of their willingness to compete for talent in all markets. I understood their inactivity in the LA market when spending was out of control, but with the hard cap this year, and their high budget, this is frustrating. This is the first time for me that I’m really starting to question their willingness to compete in the Nutting/NH era.

    • I would save that judgement for next year for one simple reason. Top players agree to contracts well before July 2nd. Since the new CBA changed the Pirates bonus pool drastically, making it more than double what it would have been under the previous rules, that’s not something they could have planned for ahead of time.

      They learned in December of 2016 that they will have a $5.25 M budget for the 2018-19 signing period, so that is enough time to properly expand their search for players. If they don’t spend the money during that bonus period, then I’d agree with you, but as far as the 2017-18 signing period, that’s not how it works with international players.

      I can guarantee you that there are 15-year-old kids right now who know where they are signing and for how much on July 2, 2018. So in December of 2016 when the Pirates found out their bonus pool was going to be double what they originally planned for, there were a lot of high quality 15/16 year old kids they still had no shot for, despite having the highest bonus pool.

        • Which allowed deep pocket teams to inflate the market for players. I don’t disagree with their approach before, the investment in players was out of sync with the risk.


          Thanks for the insight on that, and that makes total sense. I suppose the only question that I would have is were the Pirates that in dark when those negotiations were starting that they had no idea of how much their international budget was going to change with the new negotiations?

          • They probably had some idea it could change, but it would have had to been well before December to make a difference. The change needed to be agreed upon by both sides, so that’s not something you could assume will happen. The 2018-19 signing period will be a much better indication of what they can/will do with an increased pool. If they stick to the same quantity over quality approach, then the complaints are warranted.

      • R u on the pirate payroll or what? They are sitting with millions and doing nothing with it. You may believe what you say and it also might have some grain of truth to it, but truly this is a true indication of what this team is and does with its money. If this article didn’t come out showing that they are sitting on 2 plus million of unused money then we could think they spent it on high end talent based on what you found out about what they spent but could not uncover it all; which clearly they did not do. This team will not compete for high end talent regardless of where they are from.

        • Teams have different approaches to this. The Orioles traded a large portion of their bonus pool for current minor league players. If you acquire legitimate prospects in such a trade, that might be a more certain outcome than signing 16 year old kids. The downside is that you won’t get the high upside potential. There is no definitive answer to which approach works better for talent acquisition.

        • “Money spent does not guarantee anything on the international side, where they are projecting what 15-year-old kids will turn into” — John Dreker, 5 hours ago.

          It’s not free money. It’s still money they have to spend. If you don’t need to spend it to get the players you want, why spend it? Would you spend an extra $50 on lunch just because you had extra money in your pocket? Or would you wait until something you actually wanted came along?

          • If that $50 was my only way to acquire food that would benefit me in the future at a price I can afford then yes, I spend the f*cking money.

            This is *literally* the basis of the entire Huntington Era.

    • Also, one clarification on your comment. No one new will be eligible to sign before the June 15th deadline. The eligible player pool only changes from July 3 until August 31 and that’s only for players who turn 16 on any date in that time range. A kid who turned 16 on September 1st this year or after that date, is eligible for the 2018-19 international signing period, which begins July 2nd.

      • The Pirates gave substantial money to about 4 or 5 guys who have not panned out at all – Heredia and the 2 De La’s just to name a few. With two guys already in the lineup (Polanco, Marte) who combined did not get more than $250,000, and, others who were paid less than $500,000 and are performing very well in the minors, is it necessary to open the vault to sign 16 year olds.

        I still have a list of 7 or 8 kids signed by the Yankees in 2014 for over $20 mil and I doubt any of them are doing as well as lesser paid Pirate signees such as LoLo Sanchez, Rodolfo Castro, or Sherten Apostel.

        • Money spent does not guarantee anything on the international side, where they are projecting what 15-year-old kids will turn into. It’s hard enough to do it with 18 to 21 year old players in the U.S., try beating other teams to the punch while picking through high school sophomores. That doesn’t even include the way money changes some of these young kids, which I’ve heard plenty of unrepeatable stories about over the last few years.

            • What I said here applies to all 30 teams. It’s about the failure rate of international players, regardless of bonus amounts. That is not team specific.

        • You must of forgot about that Sanchez guy the Yanks signed. I think he only hit about 50 HRs in the last year and a half in the majors and will be the top catcher for years to come. I think I might take him over LoLo and the gang.

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