The International Signing Period starts on Monday, January 15th this year. Each team in baseball is allotted a certain amount of money to sign a player from a country outside of the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada.
Each club is given a set amount of money to spend on international free agents. Those players then have the freedom to choose whichever team they would like to play for. Players such as Carlos Delgado, Mariano Rivera, and Xander Bogaerts all went through the international free agency process.
The Cardinals have chosen players like Carlos Martinez, So Taguchi, and Fernando Salas. St. Louis hasn't been able to work this aspect of player acquisition as well as other teams.
When is it?
The International Signing Period will start on January 15th and run until December 15th, 2024. All thirty clubs in baseball will be given an opportunity to sign international free agents during this time period. During the labor disputes in 2022, the Players' Union rejected a proposal for an international draft instead of a free agent-style system. Most players will sign within the first month of the free agency period.
How much do the Cardinals have to spend?
This is where it gets slightly confusing. Per MLB's collective bargaining agreement, teams are each given a minimum of $4.75 million to spend in international free agency. That value can increase based on draft slots in the amateur draft. As of 2017, teams can also trade their slot money to one another.
Per Baseball America, the St. Louis Cardinals will have approximately $5,152,200 to spend this year. Now, that value could be slightly different in reality due to the team signing Sonny Gray, a player who was given a qualifying offer at the end of last season. Last offseason, the Cardinals lost $500,000 due to signing Willson Contreras, a player who declined a qualifying offer. That value is the same deduction for this year as well due to the signing of Sonny Gray.
Who is available?
Last year, the Cardinals signed one top-50 prospect through international free agency in six-foot, eight-inch pitcher Reiner Lopez. St. Louis also signed sixteen other players in addition to Lopez. So long as a player is at least sixteen, he will have an opportunity to sign with a team via international free agency.
This year, One of the top players is Leo De Vries, a shortstop from the Dominican Republic who projects to stay at the position and even boasts some power. Outfielder Paulino Santana from the Dominican Republic has been compared to Julio Rodriguez, though that comp is a bit of a risk anyway. Jose Perdomo is another shortstop out of Venezuela who is likely to sign this year; Perdomo is primarily known for his bat, but he has the athleticism that could allow him to stick at shortstop. Baseball America (subscription required) discusses many players and gives predictions as well.
Stay tuned to Redbird Rants for more information about international free agency signees by the St. Louis Cardinals.