Hard cap on international baseball agents will stem flow into MLB

NEW YORK—A record $203 million was spent on international amateur free agents in the just-ended signing period, nearly $50 million more than the previous high and a figure that will plummet when a hard cap on spending starts July 2.Four Cubans were given contracts that included signing bonuses above $5 million. Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert led the way at $26 million, followed by San Diego pitcher Adrian Morejon at $11 million, and Cincinnati shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez and Padres outfielder Jorge Ona at $7 million each.Baseball’s new labour contract imposes a cap on bonuses for international amateurs. Sixteen teams will be limited in 2017-18 to $4.75 million, six to $5.25 million and eight to $5.75 million — all not counting bonuses of up to $10,000.“The party’s over for all big signing bonuses for international amateurs. It’s no doubt,” agent Andy Mota said Monday. “It’s a reality that’s setting in, especially with Cuban players.”And under the new rules, international amateurs were redefined as under 25 years old and with less than six years of professional experience, up from 23 years old and less than five years of experience. That means less money will be chasing more players.Article Continued Below“That’s going to really drive a lot of these players to Japanese and Korean baseball,” agent Scott Boras predicted.Restraints were introduced in the 2012-16 labour contract on spending on draft picks, players who reside in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Bonuses for those players totalled $234 million in 2011, dropped to $223 million in the first year of the new rules and didn’t reach their prior level until 2015’s $249 million, according to Major League Baseball. Draft spending rose to $269 million for 2016 selections.At the same time, spending on international amateurs increased from $74 million in 2012-13 to $156 million in 2015-16 before the latest hike. And that was despite a tax on teams who exceeded their assigned bonus pools.