As you know, the Yankees are planning a massive spending spree on international free agents when the signing period opens one week from tomorrow. They’ve been connected to almost every notable prospect in recent weeks and are said to be willing to spend upwards of $30M between bonuses and penalties. They want to add some young impact talent to the organization and will do it via the international market this summer, when they can sign any player they choose and aren’t limited by draft position.
The Yankees were assigned a $2.2M bonus pool for international players this summer, which is nothing. It’s less than what they gave Gary Sanchez ($3M) a few years ago. Heck, the Yankees reportedly have verbal agreements in place with three players — Dominican SS Dermis Garcia ($3.6M), Dominican 3B Nelson Gomez ($2.8M), and Dominican SS Christopher Torres ($2.6M) — that are worth more than their spending pool. That $2.2M is relatively meaningless.
Because the pool value means so little in the grand scheme of the spending spree, the Yankees are in position to use it in another way: as a trade chip. The Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to trade their international pool money and it’s happened a few times these last two years. The Cardinals traded Mitchell Boggs to the Rockies for a little more than $200k in international cash last July, for example. The only purpose that $2.2M serves is to slightly reduce the penalties, so why not use it as a trade chip instead?
Now, trading international money is a little weird in that you can’t simply offer a team some arbitrary sum of money. The international bonus pools are broken up into four slots — like four rounds in a draft, this was put into place as a precursor to an international draft — and those individual slots are traded. You can’t trade a portion of a slot, the entire thing has to be moved. Here are the Yankees’ four international slot values, courtesy of Ben Badler:
- Slot #17: $677,400
- Slot #47: $386,300
- Slot #77: $260,800
- Slot #107: $168,600
In addition to the four slots, each team gets a $700k base that can not be traded, as far as I know. Add those four slots with the $700k base and you get the team’s ~$2.2M total pool. The Yankees can’t just trade a lump of, say, $500k in international money, they have to trade Slot #17 or Slot #47. If the $700k base is untradeable, New York has approximately $1.5M in bonus money to peddle. Got it? Good.
There are two other restrictions to trading international pool space. One, a team can only acquire an additional 50% of its pool, so the Yankees can’t send all of that ~$1.5M to one team in most cases. Two, the pool money can only be traded during the signing period, so between next Wednesday and July 1st of next year. That last part doesn’t figure to be a problem, but it does mean the Yankees can’t use their pool money as a chip for another week.
The Yankees will have to work through some obstacles to use their international spending money as a trade chip, but the idea is sound. They’re already going to spend a boatload of cash on players, so rather than have that pool money serve no other purpose than to save a little on the penalty bill — whatever they trade away is how much extra they’ll have to pay in penalties — they can use it almost as another “prospect” in a trade. It’s another asset that can be moved.
The real question is how do teams value international money? Like I said, Boggs was traded for roughly $200k last summer. He was a middle reliever whose control had deteriorated (26 walks and 25 strikeouts at the time of the trade) and been demoted to Triple-A. At least in that one instance, the $200k in international money had small trade value. The Yankees can use their pool money as a trade chip but it isn’t landing them any impact players by itself. Remember, that money will be used to sign 16-year-old kids who are a half-decade away from MLB.
Brian Cashman has already said he expects to make moves before the trade deadline, but making a deal felt inevitable even before he said that. The Yankees are only 2.5 games out of first place and one game back of a wildcard spot. They’re in contention but need help at several positions. Their international spending pool will be made irrelevant by their spending spree, so they can use that money to land help for the big league team at the trade deadline. It’s not much, but it something they should be very willing to offer.