International Signing Pool What?

Photo Credit: hj_west | Flickr

























by: Rich Daniels

International Signing Pool Money. 


Fans have likely heard or read the term and, to most, it sounds a bit nebulous. 

This concept has evolved over the past two collective bargaining agreements and has actually gotten a bit less complex. Some fans see it as a process that only brings in players that are a long way from being seen in the majors.

Meanwhile, we watched the Angels gather extra pool money to sign Shohei Ohtani and the Oakland A's, smack in the middle of the American League race for the postseason, have used their signing pool money to fortify their pitching staff without compromising a single roster in their organization. 

Each Major League baseball club gets to sign players deemed international free agents from July 2nd to the following June 15th.

Eligible players are aged 16 and up and are from outside the United States and Canada. This opens the process to players in the Asian, South American and Caribbean regions primarily. In each annual international free agent signing period, teams are allotted similar amounts that are adjusted due to their market size and profitability.

Small market and low profitability market teams are also awarded Competitive Balance picks during the Major League Free Agent Draft every June. Top CB picks, A Round, are sandwiched between the first and second rounds of the draft and B Round picks are taken between the second and third rounds. The real fun starts when you realize that all of these assets are tradable. 

The average pool allotment per team is $4.75M with adjusted amounts of $5.25M and $5.75M for markets deemed small or low revenue producing. 


These amounts are adjusted for the signing of Major League free agents that have rejected qualifying offers from their former teams.

Teams can trade this money in $250K increments and are allowed to trade all of their allotment if they choose. Teams are limited to acquiring up to 75% more allotment money from other teams. In the old CBA (2012-2016) teams that exceeded their signing pool allotment were limited to no more than a $300K offer to any eligible free agent and those penalties were carried over into the new CBA.

The Astros, A's, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres, Reds and White Sox are limited to signing only one player above the $300K amount during the current signing period ending next June 15th. The Braves are limited to $10K offers and will have their allotment cut in half during the 2020-2021 signing period as penalties passed down last November for signing infractions. 

The allotments for the current signing period were awarded on July 2nd and teams began utilizing those assets as the non-waiver trading deadline closed in. 

The teams receiving the most adjusted allotments were Oakland, Milwaukee, Miami, Tampa Bay and Cincinnati each granted $6,025,400. The next tier was $5,504,500 going to Arizona, Cleveland, Baltimore, San Diego, Colorado and Kansas City. Saint Louis was alone at an adjusted allotment of $5,004,500 after the signing of closer Greg Holland.

The largest group consisted of the Angels, Houston, Toronto, Atlanta, the Cubs, LA Dodgers, San Francisco, Seattle, Mets, Washington, Texas, Boston, Detroit, White Sox and Yankees all at $4,983,500. The Phillies bring up the rear with a $3,949,000 allotment after adjustments for signing free agents Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta who rejected offers from the Indians and Cubs respectively. 

That's a lot of signing bonus money to throw around over eleven months and a good number of teams didn't waste any time to do so. 


Since July 24th, one week before the non-waiver trading deadline, twelve trades were made that included international signing bonus pool money. 

The Braves and Yankees led the way with three deals each and the Mariners made two moves with portions of their allotment money. It's likely that more trades involving bonus pool money will go down before the waiver trade deadline at the end of August as teams work to add players on the major league level for the last leg of pennant races. 

Utilization of international signing pool money has become a useful chip for general managers to play when building both their major league rosters and their minor league systems.

Look for Venezuelan's Diego Cartaya, Misael Urbina, and Ricardo Gallardo along with Dominicans Marco Luciano and Starlyn Castillo and Osiel Rodriguez from Cuba to be high priorities for teams to throw portions of their allotments into efforts to sign as free agents. Also, Japanese ace left-hander Yusei Kikuchi could be the next Asian player to start a bidding war among major league teams.

So, it's quite evident that the international signing pool system is something fans can keep an eye on and may even creep into conversations of trades and free agent speculation for them. Because in its current form, it's a great element of the game.

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