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.