There is a different set of rules governing Major League Baseball's international signing period this year, and the Cubs are taking full advantage of the new wrinkles.
For the first time in history, each team was given a $700,000 base and a bonus pool made up of four slot values based on its 2012 record, which it is able to trade. The Cubs have seized the opportunity and been busy making moves.
top 30 international prospect signings
Using the new guidelines, the Cubs were able to increase their offer to teenage outfielder Eloy Jimenez, ranked No. 1 on MLB.com Top 30 International Prospects List, to almost $3 million while remaining big players in the international market. That's in part because they acquired four signing bonus slots -- two from the Orioles and two from the Astros -- in trades worth $963,000 on Tuesday, the first day of the international signing period.
The additional money increased the Cubs' total international pool to $5,520,300, the highest among all teams. So far, the team has committed $3,470,000 of that money to four players: shortstop Gleyber Torres, the top player from Venezuela and third-ranked international prospect, for $1.7 million; and Colombia's right-handed pitcher Erling Moreno, ranked No. 17, for $650,000. The club also signed right-handed pitcher Jefferson Mejia for $850,000 and added catching prospect Johan Matos for $270,000.
"We really like the depth and premium talent in this particular class," general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. "We made a decision to be aggressive and acquire some international slots. I don't think we're the last team that will look to add international slots. ... For us, we felt really good about that, and it was something we discussed that if we had the opportunity to add money to go after some players, we'd do it."
For now, the club is safe from an overage penalty. But the team's pending deal with Jimenez, which is expected to be worth $2.8 million, would put them $749,700 -- or 13.6 percent -- over their pool and into the penalty phase. Teams that exceed their pools by 10 to 15 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $500,000 during the 2014-2015 signing period and have to pay 100-percent tax on the pool overage.
The Cubs can still acquire $1,315,600 in slot money from other teams to avoid any penalty, because the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to add up to 50 percent of the initial bonus pool, which in Chicago's case was $4,557,200.
It's unclear if the Cubs are still trying to acquire more international slot money. What's certain are the current penalty guidelines put into practice last year.
Clubs that exceed their pool from zero to five percent are forced to pay a 75-percent tax on the overage. The teams that exceed their pools from five to 10 percent are not be allowed to sign a player for more than $500,000 during the next signing period and have to pay a 75-percent tax on the overage.
In the most severe cases, teams that exceed their pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $250,000 during the next signing period and have to pay 100-percent tax on the pool overage.
The Cubs acquired two slots in the deal that sent Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Orioles for right-handed pitchers Jake Arrietta and Pedro Strop. The two other slots were acquired from the Astros for Minor League infielder Ronald Torreyes.
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. Carrie Muskat contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less