Padres, Braves, Nationals, Brewers, Cards, Phils, Rangers most aggressive
By Jesse Sanchez
The start of the international signing period is months away, but teams have been hard at work scouting prospects across Latin America and the Caribbean since last summer in search of future stars.
The Padres, Braves and Nationals have been very aggressive on the international market, and each team expects to have a solid class of prospects for the next international signing period that starts July 2. Milwaukee, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Texas have also been very busy and expect to sign a good crop of teenagers.
Those seven teams and several others will fill the void created by the Angels, Blue Jays, Cubs, D-backs, Dodgers, Giants, Rays, Red Sox, Royals and Yankees, who will not be able to sign prospects for more than $300,000 after exceeding their bonus pools by 15 percent or more in either of the last two international signing periods.
Excluding Cuban prospects, there will likely be a few players that sign in the $3 million to $4 million range and another small group that will surpass the $1 million threshold. Several signings are expected in the $500,000 to $1 million range. The biggest competition among clubs could be for prospects signed for $300,000 or less.
Several teams are expected to blow past their allotted bonus pools for 2016 and enter into the maximum penalty in part because of the belief that a new system or possibly an international draft could be included in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Here are the guidelines for signing international prospects:
A 16-year-old international player can sign during the period that extends from July 2 through June 15 of next year if the prospect turns 17 before Sept. 1 of this year or by the completion of his first Minor League season.
Each team is allotted a base and a bonus pool made up of four slot values based on the team's record from the previous year to spend on these prospects. Clubs are allowed to trade pool money within the period. Bonuses of $10,000 or less are exempt and do not count against the allotment.
There are also penalties for teams that exceed their bonus pools.
Teams that exceed the pools by 0 to 5 percent have to pay a 100-percent tax. Teams that exceed the pools by 5 to 10 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $500,000 during the next signing period and also have to pay a 100-percent tax on the pool overage. Teams that exceed the pools by 10 to 15 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next signing period and have to pay a 100-percent tax on the pool overage.
In the most severe penalty, teams that exceed the pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods, in addition to paying a 100-percent tax on the pool overage.
The international signing guidelines do not apply to players who previously signed a contract with a Major League or a Minor League club, nor do they apply to players who are least 23 years old and have played as a professional in a league recognized by the Commissioner's Office for a minimum of five seasons. Cuban players who are at least 23 and have played in a Cuban professional league for five or more seasons are also exempt.
The following teams will not be able to sign any pool-eligible prospects for more than $300,000 for the next two international signing periods after exceeding their bonus pools during the current signing period that ends June 15: Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Royals.
The following teams are already in the maximum penalty after exceeding their bonus pools and can't sign prospects for more than $300,000 until 2017: Angels, D-backs, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees.
And the Blue Jays will not be able to sign any pool-eligible players for more than $300,000 during the 2016 signing period after exceeding their bonus pool during the current 2015 signing period.
10 players to watch
Luis Jose Almanzar, SS, Dominican Republic
Yasel Atuna, SS, Dominican Republic
Edisson Gonzalez, RHP, Panama
Abraham Gutierrez, C, Venezuela
Kevin Maitan, INF, Venezuela
Adrian Morejon, LHP, Cuba
Jorge Ona, OF, Cuba
Tirso Ornelas, OF, Mexico
Alfredo Rodriguez, SS, Cuba
Jeisson Rosario, OF, Dominican Republic
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.