Turn Ahead the Clock night was a delightful insight into a certain type of future, where the robots are reasonably benign overlords and the Mariners and Diamondbacks have blended color schemes. The July 2 International Signing Period is the closest thing to a true opportunity to turn ahead the clock, with 16 year-olds throughout the world (albeit predominantly concentrated in Latin America) are eligible to sign amateur contracts with MLB clubs. The rules for this simultaneously exciting and icky tradition have been overhauled in recent years, so for a quick refresher...
- All teams are granted roughly between $4.9-6.0 million of “pool space” with which to spend on international amateurs, depending on competitive balance valuations. Note that this is simply a limitation on their existing funds, not an extra allotment they receive.
- As we saw last winter, teams can trade this pool space in increments of $500,000. Because the players signed through this means are typically 6-8 years away from the majors, if they make it at all, the value of this space is artificially deflated, but the relative newness of this system makes transactions involving pool space fascinating.
- If teams exceed their bonus pool for spending, they incur a penalty in the following season, wherein they are limited to signing players for bonuses of no more than $300,000. This year, that applies to the Athletics, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres, Reds and White Sox.
- Deals of $10,000 or less (what Jerry Dipoto has so cheerily referred to as “penny stocks”) do not count against the bonus pool.
- The Mariners have $4.98 million of pool space to spend this period, which runs until July 1st, 2019, and they appear to have already committed over half of that!
Coming from Cotui, Dominican Republic (founded in 1505!), INF Noelvi Marte is the 7th-ranked prospect in the period according to MLB Pipeline and the 4th-ranked prospect according to Baseball America.
He’s a R/R player with universally commended hands, bat speed, and arm strength. A number of reports see him shifting to 3rd base eventually as he adds strength to his frame, but right now his speed is a plus as well. His swing seems smooth, with a bat path that seems straight out of Josh Donaldson’s playbook. His heavy leg kick may be shortened up, but there’s a lot to like in his 6’1, 185 lbs profile.
Marte seems certain to be the main headliner for Seattle this period. Last year the Mariners signed two of the top-30 prospects in OF Julio Rodriguez ($1.75 million) and SS/INF Juan Querecuto ($1.225 million),
but Marte’s $2.65 million signing bonus is the highest by far of any player signed since Dipoto took office. UPDATE: Per Jesse Sanchez, Marte received “only” $1.55 million, making his deal just the second-highest the M’s have given out under Dipoto. Perhaps Marte’s advanced approach fast-tracks him, but traditionally the Mariners have started all their international amateurs out in the Dominican Summer Leagues the year following their signing (hence Rodriguez and Querecuto debuting a month ago) and keeping their players in the massive facility the team constructed in the Dominican Republic for training and education.