By Todd Johnson
Ben Badler of Baseball America broke some important news yesterday.
It will be interesting to see how this affects the Cubs.
When the Cubs received penalties for exceeding their bonus pools in 2013 and 2015, the Cubs went all in on Mexican free agents from 2014-2017. That international strategy came to a screeching halt last spring when MLB shut the Mexican market down including cancelling the Cubs’ contract with Florencio Serrano, an elite pitching prospect who actually went to a high school in the US for awhile.
For the last year, no teams have been able to sign a Mexican player from certain leagues until yesterday due to corruption that luckily did not involve any wrongdoing by the Cubs.
In fact, the Cubs were known for tapping the market hard hoping to win the lottery with a prospect. A few of those prospects (Carlos Sepulveda, Jose Albertos, and Javier Assad) were impressive in the lower portion of the minors in 2016 and 2017.
What will happen now between the Cubs and Mexico?
To begin, under the new agreement, the player will get all of the signing bonus. The Mexican team will get an additional 35% of that bonus as a signing fee, for lack of a better team. A plus of the agreement is that the signing fee to the Mexican team will not count toward the bonus pool.
However, things have changed since the Cubs went all in south of border. For one, the Cubs now have a hard cap on international money. The Cubs could go re-sign for Florencio Serrano this summer if both sides agree. Serrano did return to his Mexican team. Now 18, he’s one of the more intriguing options for the Cubs this summer. However, Serrano can sign now and the Cubs only $300,000 left in their pool that they can spend over the next three months. Serrano will command at least a 7-figure deal which the Cubs could not match until July 2..
Last July 2, the Cubs went for high quality players rather than quantity. They were able to bring Richard Gallardo, Jose Lopez, and Joel Machado aboard. They were all ranked in the top 30 on MLB Pipeline. As of today, the Cubs only signed 10 players from last summer. Expect them to sign plenty by June.
During 2016-2017, the Cubs inked upwards of 40 players each summer. The Cubs are not likely to go that route again unless they need to restock the DSL teams. Then again, they could also do that fairly cheaply if they wanted. The objective in IFA should be to add high quality players from the international marketplace that could be stars 6-7 years down the road.
WIth strict spending limits in place, the Cubs options for how they spend that money could be different for 2019-2020. It will bear watching later this summer and then again in the fall when the Cubs have been known to pick up some under the radar international free agents..