Happy 2nd of July!
(You’re a couple of days early — aren’t you?)
How about Happy International Signing Day!
(Happy what now?)
Okay, let me explain.
I know that for many fans of just the Milwaukee Brewers, July 2nd hasn’t carried a whole ton of meaning until recently, and only recently if you’ve followed the organization’s renewed efforts to identify and sign international (read: latin american) talent. That renewed effort coinciding with the opening of their academy in the Dominican Republic, in a partnership with former Brewer closer Salomon Torres.
The Brewers have signed some players but their first real splashes came last July 2nd when they inked a couple of guys to team record Latin American signing bonuses. Those kids, Dominicans Franly Mallen and Nicolas Pierre then each just 16 years old, were ranked 22nd and 29th respectively on MLB.com’s list of top international prospects. They were signed to contracts worth $800,000 apiece, and the Brewers were seen as players again in the region.
Well, a report all the way back in February from Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel had the Brewers tied to an even bigger target in Dominican shortstop Gilbert Lara, who he has said is arguably the top international prospect this year.
(Here’s a link to the February column from McDaniel: http://sbb.scout.com/2/1373523.html)
He’s ranked 4th on MLB.com’s international prospects list and is said to have a physically mature body, lending itself to safer projectability. Regardless, he was reported at the time to be a lock to blow the $800,000 franchise record out of the water. In fact, it was seen that Lara could quite easily get $3,000,000 and probably would get a bit more.
While that’s great news for the Brewers, the unfortunate side effect is that since a franchise cannot officially have even a verbal agreement in place prior to July 2nd, the leaked information could put the team at risk of at least having another franchise swoop in to offer more, or at worst costing the organization some sanctions.
While it luckily appears that both of the situations have been avoided because multiple outlets (including ESPN’s Enrique Rojas and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez) reported that Lara has indeed formally agreed to and subsequently signed a contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, something that appears inevitable for now is the Brewers soaring past their “soft cap” for international signings. That number for 2014 is just $2,611800 which would mean Lara alone would already put the Brewers into the realm of financial penalty.
The financial penalties break down thusly (as borrowed from Jesse Sanchez’s MLBlogs.com blog):
- 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.
- Teams that exceed the pools by 0 to 5 percent have to pay 100 percent tax and 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 have to pay a 100-percent tax on the pool overage.
For the record, if Lara got the $3.2 million he was reportedly set to sign for today, that puts the Brewers more than 15% over their pool allotment. The Brewers could possibly alleviate some of that by trading for pool space, but that remains to be seen. For now, that’s a worry for 2015.
For the rest of 2014, Lara can be expected to report to the Brewers Academy in San Pedro de Macoris, but per rule he won’t be eligible to play in Dominican Summer League games until next year. Lara is a high-ceiling kid, one whose abilities on the baseball diamond have gained significant attention for a reason. He’s also still just 16 years old and it needs to be understood that even in a great string of events and success, he wouldn’t be playing on United States’ soil until 2016 at the earliest. Still, should he realize the potential that is worth more than $3 million of signing bonus and contract, it will be an investment worth its weight in time and expense.