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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Why We’re Not Ranking The Top July 2 MLB International Prospects

Read the whole thing.

Let’s get into the practical side first. International free agency is a vastly different scouting process from the draft in the United States. The reality is that teams are not currently scouting the top 2019 international players, many of whom reached agreements to sign with major league teams when they were 14. That means, in many cases, the last time those players worked out for clubs outside of the organization they’re expected to sign with on July 2 was two years ago. So when I speak with scouts, they don’t have an updated read on the players going to the other 29 teams.

When a player commits to a team, he stops working out for other clubs. The player still practices at his trainer’s field and can go to a team facility for a certain amount of time, but he stops going to open showcases or tryouts. If a scout goes to a trainer’s field to watch other players in that program, he might happen to see a top committed 2019 player, but it’s usually a superficial look—a shortstop taking groundballs or taking batting practice, rather than a real game. Nothing that a team would make decisions on or that you would want use to build a substantive report.

Jim Furtado Posted: June 27, 2019 at 06:06 AM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: international free agents

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   1. PreservedFish Posted: June 27, 2019 at 08:35 AM (#5856281)
This is fascinating, as is the associated article that goes into detail on the current state of international scouting and development: LINK

tl;dr: Competition has driven teams to start scouting and "signing" children as young as 10-13. Everyone agrees it's absurd to scout kids so young, and to agree to these signings so many years before they can be consummated, but it's now the only way to compete. If you wait til kids are 15, you'll never get a top talent, ever. MLB understands that everyone breaks the rules, and is loath to punish any one team, as all 30 teams participate. Support for an international draft is growing, even among the scouts and trainers that make their living trying to find and work with the youngest talents.
   2. PreservedFish Posted: June 27, 2019 at 08:39 AM (#5856282)
Also, the teams are currently "wasting" their money feeding / training / equipping / schooling the 12 year old kids that they pre-sign, many of whom will never develop as expected, and the teams would like to reduce those costs. So, unsurprising that there's a cost-cutting element to all this.
   3. Jose is an Absurd Time Cube Posted: June 27, 2019 at 08:50 AM (#5856285)
Article is well worth the read.
   4. Bote Man sez Deivi is MoY Posted: June 27, 2019 at 08:57 AM (#5856288)
My team is leading a cutting-edge effort to sign embryos. We think it's a winner!
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2019 at 09:14 AM (#5856292)
Support for an international draft is growing, even among the scouts and trainers that make their living trying to find and work with the youngest talents.

If you're going to have a cap on bonuses, as we now do, a draft makes total sense. Sign them at 18. They shouldn't even be legally allowed to sign a contract until then.

Set up an MLB sponsored league where the good prospects can play from 16-18.
   6. Greg Pope Posted: June 27, 2019 at 09:46 AM (#5856304)
MLB understands that everyone breaks the rules, and is loath to punish any one team, as all 30 teams participate.

This is the kind of thing that's actually easy to take care of, going forward. You just announce that you've investigated the practice and found that all (or many) teams are signing players too young. And from now on you're going to establish a committee/department/whatever to police it. Starting in 2020 any team that breaks the rules will face the punishment. Then you're not singling out any particular teams.

I have no clue whether this would be easy to enforce, but saying that everyone is doing it is not a deal breaker.
   7. PreservedFish Posted: June 27, 2019 at 10:05 AM (#5856309)
#6 - It sounds like MLB is making a really good effort - the trainers and scouts quoted have nothing but compliments for how they have begun to address the problem. Slowly and with an open-mind (kind of a Manfred hallmark, huh?). This is a recent change, they thought the previous administration was useless.
   8. PreservedFish Posted: June 27, 2019 at 10:07 AM (#5856311)
It certainly helps explain why, for years, we would hear "So-and-So Unbelievably Good Prospect is widely expected to sign with Team X for a relative pittance that every other team should happily beat." Because everyone knew that they agreed to the deal years ago.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2019 at 10:14 AM (#5856317)
It certainly helps explain why, for years, we would hear "So-and-So Unbelievably Good Prospect is widely expected to sign with Team X for a relative pittance that every other team should happily beat." Because everyone knew that they agreed to the deal years ago.

But why would the player keep his end of the deal? This system should have broken down a long time ago, unless the teams are colluding, which would be my guess. There has to be a "hands-off" agreement among teams. No dirt-poor 16 y.o. is going to sign for $300K instead of $1M because he made a hand-shake deal when he was 13.
   10. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 27, 2019 at 10:15 AM (#5856320)
Didn't they already kinda single out the Braves for circumventing the rules?
   11. my email address is hashtag 57i66135 Posted: June 27, 2019 at 10:21 AM (#5856327)
But why would the player keep his end of the deal?

did you not hear about what happened to david ortiz?
   12. PreservedFish Posted: June 27, 2019 at 10:36 AM (#5856332)
But why would the player keep his end of the deal? This system should have broken down a long time ago, unless the teams are colluding, which would be my guess. There has to be a "hands-off" agreement among teams.

Yes, not to mention all sorts of corruption, greasing the palms of buscones, giving money or other stuff to the families, etc.

But also as the excerpt says, the teams will also essentially hide their players. You pre-sign a guy at age 12, and then he's done showing off his stuff. This is why BA is ceasing to rank these guys - their rankings in the past must have been based 90% on rumor. When we heard "Prospect X is considered among the best in the class" the person that wrote that was talking out of his butt. We assumed "oh, the best kid from the DR must be worth $10M easy!" but in reality nobody knows if he's the best, and with spending strictly capped it's not smart for teams to splash their money around willy-nilly.
   13. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: June 27, 2019 at 11:50 AM (#5856359)
I'm very glad this was featured here and that people are reading it.
   14. Zonk Has Great and Unmatched Wisdom Posted: June 27, 2019 at 12:15 PM (#5856364)
But why would the player keep his end of the deal? This system should have broken down a long time ago, unless the teams are colluding, which would be my guess. There has to be a "hands-off" agreement among teams. No dirt-poor 16 y.o. is going to sign for $300K instead of $1M because he made a hand-shake deal when he was 13.


Because the teams are not just sending a VP of something or other to shake hands with the kids... they're shadow-shaking hands with "trainers" who have hyper-enormous influence with the kids and such folks lose their ability to get their "cut" if they start reneging.

This extends beyond just DR signings - though that's what TFA highlights... There was a scandal a year or two back with similar shady dealings with the Mexican leagues - the Cubs lost a couple good signings over their involvement - and to MLB's credit, they appear to have cleaned up the problem (teams were banned from working with LMB until recently why the mess got cleaned up).
   15. Karl from NY Posted: June 27, 2019 at 02:23 PM (#5856426)
But why would the player keep his end of the deal? This system should have broken down a long time ago, unless the teams are colluding, which would be my guess. There has to be a "hands-off" agreement among teams. No dirt-poor 16 y.o. is going to sign for $300K instead of $1M because he made a hand-shake deal when he was 13.


From reading the article, it sounds like it goes like this. The player stops working out for and being seen by other teams, so that $1m offer never happens. His motivation is that he doesn't know if he'll be good enough to get a better offer for another team and so doesn't want to risk the original team pulling the $300k handshake offer in response. Then the team holds up its end with the $300k offer because it cares about its reputation and doesn't want future prospects or their agents/trainers to perceive that it reneged. At no point in this sequence did any two teams communicate or agree or collude with each other.
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2019 at 02:41 PM (#5856448)
From reading the article, it sounds like it goes like this. The player stops working out for and being seen by other teams, so that $1m offer never happens. His motivation is that he doesn't know if he'll be good enough to get a better offer for another team and so doesn't want to risk the original team pulling the $300k handshake offer in response. Then the team holds up its end with the $300k offer because it cares about its reputation and doesn't want future prospects or their agents/trainers to perceive that it reneged. At no point in this sequence did any two teams communicate or agree or collude with each other.

Teams don't need to communicate. They just adopt a "see no evil" live attitude towards the prospects they each have hidden. If they weren't in soft collusion, each team would be scouring for info to find out who the other teams have hidden.

The Yankees/Dodgers/Red Sox/Cubs etc. certainly have plenty of money to hire or pay-off employees of the other teams to find out who they have stashed that's any good.
   17. Karl from NY Posted: June 27, 2019 at 03:08 PM (#5856463)
Teams don't need to communicate.

Then it's not collusion. If player X has a soft offer from one team and declines to interact with another, that's not collusion.
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2019 at 03:15 PM (#5856467)
Then it's not collusion. If player X has a soft offer from one team and declines to interact with another, that's not collusion.

But if teams all decline to search for good prospects other teams have stashed, that is collusion. Not that I don't think informal communication happens all the time, especially in country.

That's the whole beauty of oligopolies, it's easy to collude without formally communicating.
   19. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: June 27, 2019 at 03:21 PM (#5856471)
Legal collusion does not require explicit agreement.

If you're going to have a cap on bonuses, as we now do, a draft makes total sense. Sign them at 18. They shouldn't even be legally allowed to sign a contract until then.

Set up an MLB sponsored league where the good prospects can play from 16-18.


This is tough because if MLB draws back on the youngest players, the buscones just come and fill that gap. I'm not sure it's any better for the players in that situation. It does appear that MLB is going to have its international draft. The MLBPA fought it hard, even agreeing to the spending limits. I wonder if they are afraid of what will happen if individual teams no longer have a stake.
   20. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 27, 2019 at 03:26 PM (#5856473)
This is tough because if MLB draws back on the youngest players, the buscones just come and fill that gap. I'm not sure it's any better for the players in that situation. It does appear that MLB is going to have its international draft. The MLBPA fought it hard, even agreeing to the spending limits. I wonder if they are afraid of what will happen if individual teams no longer have a stake.

MLB can completely neuter the buscones if they want. Establish an offical MLB D-league in the major talent markets. Players have to play in the D-league to be draft eligible. All draft bonuses will be disbursed to a U.S. bank account established for the draftee. No commission arrangements of any sort with be honored.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: June 27, 2019 at 10:24 PM (#5856591)
If you're gonna let teams unofficially sign kids at 13 then let them do so officially (while ensuring the money goes to the kid and the family) and THEN require them to play in an MLB-run league until 18 with MLB also providing an education. Add a commitment that MLB will ensure their room, board and education through age 18 even if they get hurt or suck at baseball. It's still a mightily F'd up system but it's got to be cleaner and less morally hazardous than what's going on now. It would then be nice to put in some sort limits on team control so these guys aren't under the control of a single team from ages 13-32.
   22. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 28, 2019 at 09:55 AM (#5856644)
If you're gonna let teams unofficially sign kids at 13 then let them do so officially

Since when can a 13 y.o. sign a legally binding contract?

I actually don't understand how these contracts signed at 16 are binding once the player gets to the U.S.
   23. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: June 28, 2019 at 10:07 AM (#5856648)
MLB can completely neuter the buscones if they want. Establish an offical MLB D-league in the major talent markets. Players have to play in the D-league to be draft eligible. All draft bonuses will be disbursed to a U.S. bank account established for the draftee. No commission arrangements of any sort with be honored.

MLB can't dictate whether the buscones' agreements are enforceable under the law. In any event, why would MLB owners want to eliminate them? They're providing services which ownership doesn't pay for.
   24. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 28, 2019 at 10:17 AM (#5856652)
MLB can't dictate whether the buscones' agreements are enforceable under the law. In any event, why would MLB owners want to eliminate them? They're providing services which ownership doesn't pay for.

Because they can pay smaller bonuses and the players are just as happy, b/c they get all the money. Why would you trust these shadowy guys to develop your prospects for you?

Also, if MLB insists on only paying bonuses in the U.S., foreign law won't be enforceable. No US court is going to order a payment based on a contract a kid signed when he was 12.
   25. Esmailyn Gonzalez Sr. Posted: June 28, 2019 at 12:50 PM (#5856686)
My team is leading a cutting-edge effort to sign embryos. We think it's a winner!

A couple of years ago there was a conversation on the Effectively Wild podcast about how much they would be willing to pay to sign Clayton Kershaw's newborn son to a contract, based on genetics alone. It was much more than zero.

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