Major League Baseball’s international signing period is nearly upon us, with the 2023 period beginning this Sunday. Here’s an overview of the process, and how much the Dodgers have to spend.
Each international signing period runs from January 15 to December 15.
Starting with the previous collective bargaining agreement — which began in 2017 — international bonus pools are hard capped, which prevented teams from hoarding talent in single signing periods while paying massive cash penalties, while getting sanctioned in later years. The Dodgers, for instance, spent nearly $92 million during the 2015-16 international period, a total that included a little over $46 million in signing bonuses and another nearly $46 million in penalties.
Closing that avenue through collective bargaining was a way for owners to limit costs. The largest bonus during the 2022 international signing period was $4.925 million, by the Nationals to Cuban outfielder Cristhian Vaquero. During that freewheeling 2015-16 international period, for instance, the Dodgers alone signed three players for more than that — pitcher Yadier Alvarez ($16 million), outfielder Yusniel Diaz ($15.5 million), and infielder Omar Estevez ($6 million).
During the 2023 international signing period, per both Jesse Sanchez at MLB.com and Ben Badler at Baseball America, the largest team bonus pool is $6,366,900, a group comprised of the eight teams that had draft picks last year in Competitive Balance Round B. The Dodgers are tied with the Rangers with the smallest bonus pool among major league teams, with a total of $4,144,000 to spend. Those two teams also provide instruction on the various costs of free agency and total spending.
The Dodgers, who were a competitive balance tax payer in 2021, saw their 2023 bonus pool reduced by $1 million for last March’s signing of Freddie Freeman, who rejected a qualifying offer from Atlanta. The Rangers, who did not pay competitive balance tax in 2021, were docked $500,000 when signing a qualifying-offer free agent. Texas signed two such free agents — Marcus Semien and old friend Corey Seager.
Teams are allowed to trade international bonus pool slots, though they cannot trade them for cash.
Any bonuses of $10,000 or less don’t count against a team’s bonus pool.
The signing period lasts eleven months, but most of the action happens immediately, with many of these deals agreed to ahead of time, even though such a thing is technically against the rules.
Last year, the Dodgers signed a total of 43 players in the first two months of the international signing period, led by outfielder Samuel Muñoz, who hit .347/.429/.491 in 47 games in the Dominican Summer League before turning 18 in September.
This year, the top international prospect linked to the Dodgers is Joendry Vargas, a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic. The 6’3 shortstop just turned 17 in November, and is ranked the No. 3 international prospect by MLB Pipeline and 16th at Baseball America.
“He’ll stay in the middle of the infield for as long as he can, but his plus arm potential will serve him well if he transitions to third base in the future,” writes Jesse Sanchez at MLB.com.
The Baseball America scouting report Vargas says, “A former switch-hitter now hitting right-handed only, Vargas drives the ball with impact too, with a chance to grow into above-average raw power.”
The 2023 international signing period begins on Sunday.