Last week Rob Manfred dropped harsh penalties on the Atlanta Braves for their conduct in signing international free agents during the 2015-20 time period.
Bundling prospects is common place in the international free agent market, but John Coppolella received a lifetime ban for skirting around the rules in the 2015-16 signing period that allowed them to stay under the amount that would bar them from signing any prospect to a deal worth more than $300k for the next two signing periods.
The Boston Red Sox had contracts of five prospects voided and banned from signing any international free agents for one year after they attempted to bundle prospects to circumvent the $300k cap they could give to a prospect. This set the precedent for penalties for trying to get around the limits.
The penalty the Braves received allowed their 2015-16 signees to be allowed, but would have put them under a two year prohibition from signing prospects to more than $300k bonuses.
SS Kevin Maitan ($4.25MM), Abrahan Guitierrez ($3.53MM), 2B Yunior Severino ($1.9MM), RHP Juan Contreras ($1.2MM), SS Yenci Pena ($1.05MM), SS Livan Soto ($1MM), RHP Yefri del Rosario ($1MM), OF Juan Carlos Negret ($1MM), RHP Guillermo Zuniga ($350K), and OF Antonio Sucre ($300K) were declared international free agents who were part of the Braves massive haul of IFA signees during the 2016-17 signing period.
In addition the Braves also lost SS Ji-Hwan Bae whose contract wasn’t approved due to additional compensation above the listed $300K during the 2017-18 period. OF Brandol Mezquita ($300K) and SS Angel Rojas ($300K) were also declared free agents from the 2017-18 bringint the total to 13 players looking for new organizations.
What can the Rays offer?
The players will be eligible to sign with a new organization between December 5 and January 15 and receive a second signing bonus. After January 15 the players will be eligible to sign, but not receive a second bonus. The Braves are barred from signing any player until May 1.
The first $200k of the signing bonuses are exempt from counting towards a team’s international free agent pool. Teams will be eligible to choose to count the signing towards either the current pool or the 2018-19 pool that opens on July 2. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Kansas City Royals will be ineligible to give any player a bonus in excess of $300K since they will be prohibited during both signing periods. Eight clubs are limited in the current period, but can count it against the 2018-19 signing period.
In an article from USA Today published on November 8th it states the Rays have $440,500 remaining in pool money in the current signing period. The Rays could trade for up to $3,937,500 in additional pool money. They could also count a player against their $5,750,000 pool in 2018-19. The only notable connection the Rays have to the next signing period is currently SS Alexander Pie who is expected to receive a signing bonus around $2MM.
After the Red Sox were banned from signing additional international free agents the Rays pounced on signing OF Roimer Bolivar who was expected to sign with the Red Sox. Bolivar was ranked the 31st best IFA prospect by Baseball America.
Of the players available the most desirable are likely 2B Yunior Severino who ranked 16th in the Baseball America’s Top 20 Prospects in the Gulf Coast League and RHP Yefri del Rosario who ranked 17th. Severino is a switch hitter with a quick bat, but has work to do defensively. Del Rosario has pumped up the velocity to 91-94 and touched 97.
The process could be held up while Shohei Ohtani decides where he wants to play and the Winter Meetings conclude, but the Rays would be wise to take a shot at signing at least one of these talented teenagers.