When the Boston Red Sox signed Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada with a $31.5 million bonus last month, they were taking advantage of a flawed system that likely won't be in place much longer.
Although it's on a much smaller scale, the Twins appear to be preparing to make a similarly savvy move with 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Wander Javier when the international signing period opens on July 2nd.
Depending on which reports you choose to believe, the Twins either have very serious interest in Javier (La Velle says they are "definitely in on this one"), or they already have a tentative agreement in place (Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs wrote that the shortstop is "widely believed to have a deal with the Twins").
If true, this signals that the Twins are not only on the verge of making their biggest financial splash ever on the international market, but also utilizing what may be one of their last opportunities to do so under the current favorable -- if somewhat ridiculous -- guidelines.
Boston's signing of Moncada stirred up some controversy around a subject that has been touchy for some time, with Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Drew Smyly summarizing the basic conundrum in a tweet: "It's not right that a Cuban 19yr old gets paid 30m and the best 19yr old in the entire USA gets prob 1/6th of that. Everyone should have to go through same process."
Unlike in the MLB amateur draft, there are no restrictions or limits on the bonuses that international players receive; it is an open bidding war among all 30 teams. Each club has a bonus pool that it is penalized for exceeding, but as the Red Sox showed, that tends to be a minor impediment.
This isn't exactly fair for special young baseball talents that happen to be cultivated here in the States and must go through a far more regimented process.
Last year, when the Twins selected 18-year-old shortstop Nick Gordon with the fifth overall pick, they signed him to a $3.85 million bonus, which was the slot-recommended amount. Meanwhile, reports suggest that the Twins are ready to hand Javier around $4 million.
One could argue that Javier (who can be seen here courtesy of FanGraphs) has more upside than Gordon did, but he's two years younger and considerably less seasoned.
Clearly the Twins like this kid, and you certainly can't blame them for making aggressive moves to bring him aboard, especially since the same approach may not be possible after next year. Momentum is building toward the institution of an international draft. New commissioner Rob Manfred has expressed interest in taking this direction, and it might happen when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2016.
If indeed the Twins make an historical investment to bring Javier aboard, they might be trying to get out in front of this coming development. And while it's extremely difficult to say how the teenaged infielder might develop -- he's got a great athletic build, with the defensive skills to stick at short, but his offensive ability is basically all projection at this point -- the last time the Twins took an international prospect plunge on this level was when they spent $3.15 million in 2009 to bring aboard Miguel Sano, who has transformed into a potentially franchise-altering talent.
There's little doubt that Major League Baseball needs an international draft. But until then, the Twins are wise to take advantage of the open market and outbid all others to get the player they want. It appears that they are committed to doing just that.
For additional coverage of spring training, head over to Twins Daily, where Seth Stohs is filing multiple daily reports live from Ft. Myers this week!