While July 4 is synonymous with baseball in many respects, July 2 is a far more important day for general managers and scouts. That's because Sunday brings the official opening of the 2017 international signing period, when MLB organizations can begin inking free-agent deals with the latest crop of talented
While July 4 is synonymous with baseball in many respects, July 2 is a far more important day for general managers and scouts. That's because Sunday brings the official opening of the 2017 international signing period, when MLB organizations can begin inking free-agent deals with the latest crop of talented players from abroad. With that in mind, here is everything you need to know ahead of this important day on the baseball calendar.
Looking at MLBPipeline.com's Top 30 International Prospects list, Venezuela leads the way with 14 players, followed closely by the Dominican Republic (12). Mexico (two), Brazil (one) and the Bahamas (one) also are represented.
Scouts look for players capable of handling premium positions, so it's no surprise that the Top 30 includes 16 shortstops, including six of the top 12. There also are 10 outfielders, two pitchers and two catchers.
Players to know
Here is a quick look at the top five players in the 2017 class, according to MLBPipeline.com.
1. Wander Samuel Franco, SS, Dominican Republic: The switch-hitting shortstop, who is Erick Aybar's nephew, is considered polished both with the bat and glove, and has well above-average speed. MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez has reported that the Rays are the favorites to sign him, but nothing is official until July 2.
2. Daniel Flores, C, Venezuela: With his quickness and strong arm, some believe Flores, who has been linked to the Red Sox, could develop into an elite defensive catcher, and he is also a switch hitter.
3. Jelfry Marte, SS, Dominican Republic: Marte's fielding ability and arm are his best tools, making him a solid bet to stick at shortstop. The Twins are known to have strong interest in Marte.
4. Everson Pereira, OF, Venezuela: A plus runner and defender who has been linked to the Yankees, Pereira has the potential to man center fielder, and scouts are impressed with his bat speed.
5. Eric Pardinho, RHP, Brazil: Upside and projectability are questions for a righty listed at 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, but he has reached 95 mph with his fastball and has a full arsenal of off-speed pitches. Toronto is known to have interest in Pardinho.
International signing rules apply to players who reside outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and have not been enrolled in a high school or college in one of those places within the previous year. An international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team between July 2 through June 15 of the following year if he is 16 or will turn 16 before Sept. 1. (Foreign professionals -- defined as players who are at least 25 years of age and have played as a professional in a foreign league recognized by Major League Baseball for a minimum of six seasons -- maintain exemption from the international bonus pool.)
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, which went into effect prior to this season, the rules for signing international prospects are changing. Under the new rules, every team will get at least $4.75 million to spend on international prospects. However, teams that receive Competitive Balance Picks, which are given to clubs in small markets and/or with low revenue, will get slightly more.
Any team receiving a Competitive Balance Round A pick in the Draft will get $5.25 million in international bonus pool money, and teams receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick will have $5.75 million to spend. A club can trade away as much of its international pool money as it would like, but a team can only acquire up to 75 percent of its initially allotted pool. That means the most any team can possibly spend is $10,062,500. It's also worth noting that signings of $10,000 or less do not count against a team's bonus pool.
Under the previous CBA, teams could exceed their bonus pool, but would incur penalties that were dependent on the size of the overage. That is no longer the case, and each team now must deal with a "hard cap" that cannot be exceeded under any circumstances. That said, penalties teams incurred in past signing periods, under the previous CBA, still carry over to 2017. That affects the A's, Braves, Astros, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, Padres, Reds and Royals, each of whom are in the maximum penalty. That means they cannot sign international prospects for more than $300,000 in this signing period.
On the other hand, the Angels, Blue Jays, D-backs, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees have seen their penalties expire and will no longer be limited come July 2.
Big names of the past
In case you need convincing that this date is important, here's a look at some big-name players who once garnered big bonuses as teenagers on or soon after July 2.
• The Twins' Miguel Sano is a breakout star in 2017, recently committing to participate in the 2017 T-Mobile Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game at Marlins Park on July 10. But eight years ago, the Dominican Republic native was a coveted international prospect, eventually agreeing that October to a $3.15 million signing bonus. That was the second-largest bonus given to an amateur player from Latin America.
• On July 2 the same year Sano signed with Minnesota, the Yankees handed a $3 million bonus to a young catcher from the Dominican Republic, Gary Sanchez. In 2016, Sanchez burst onto the scene with 20 home runs in 53 games as a rookie.
• Less than three months after his 16th birthday, on July 4, 2002, Felix Hernandez ended a bidding war by signing with the Mariners for a little more than $700,000. Three years and one month later, the Venezuelan righty was pitching for the M's and on his way toward becoming King Felix.
• On July 2, 1999, the Marlins beat out a field including the Blue Jays, Dodgers and Red Sox for a 16-year-old shortstop from Maracay, Venezuela, handing him a signing bonus worth $1.8 million. That youngster was Jose Cabrera, who debuted in the Majors less than four years later and helped the Marlins to a World Series championship, beginning his climb toward Cooperstown.
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.