Baseball America's international free agency guru Ben Badler was on the Baseball America Podcast today, where he discussed many of the issues we've been debating around these parts related to the Cubs' sticky situation. It was a very informative interview, so I have transcribed extensively. To date, Badler has correctly predicted the signing team for 20 of the 22 signed free agents from his top 30, so he definitely has his ear to the ground in this process.
On Teams' Familiarity with Eloy and Gleyber
A guy like Eloy Jimenez… was in Amauris Nina's program when Elier Hernandez was a sixteen year old kid who was popping up on the radar … Back then was when teams were getting their first look at Eloy Jimenez, so they've been scouting him for years. There are kids in Venezuela like Gleyber Torres, Greifer Andrade, all these guys who have been playing for Venezuelan tournament teams… since they were fifteen, fourteen, sometimes as young as 12 years old… So they've known about these guys for a long time.
On the Cubs' Bonus Pool Situation
I think what you're seeing the Cubs do is pretty much what we expected, they signed Moreno, they signed Gleyber Torres, they signed Jefferson Mejia, and I think they're probably, once they acquire the pool space, going to sign Eloy Jimenez, but they don't have the pool space right now to be able to do that. I'm sure they are not thrilled that they have to make trades before the trade deadline, when other teams realize that their backs are up against the wall… because teams [now] know that what we wrote was 100% accurate. So they are kind of losing a little bit of leverage in the trade market when they are trying to trade someone like Matt Garza or somebody else on their major league team … And that's why you're seeing them say things like "Oh, yeah, we don't definitely have to acquire more pool space." Things like that.
On the Possibility Of Going Into the Penalty
… I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if they did just end up going over it, and paying the penalty anyway if they can't acquire that pool space. They would have severely miscalculated. …That's great that you might be able to get Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres. Talent-wise we have them as the top two players on the board, but if they overcommitted to somebody like Erling Moreno or Jefferson Mejia, or anybody else, not realizing.. "oh shoot, we're not going to have the pool space to sign all these guys," and having to pay the penalty [next year] when you're probably going to have… one of the top five bonus pools again. To not be able to sign a guy for over $250,000 next year… I mean, you could have still signed Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres and then kept your pool money for the next year. So sure, maybe they could trade some of that pool space, but that pretty significantly handcuffs you.
Contrasting Implications for Overspending between the Cubs and Rangers
For [the Rangers], I can see them having more justification than if the Cubs end up doing that, because the Rangers are probably going to have one of the smallest pools next year, so you could say, alright let's take an every-other-year strategy to the international market. Now if you're the Cubs, and next year your bonus pool is going to be three and a half million dollars, then that sort of … cuts off a window of opportunity you've been afforded, so I don't agree with a decision to pay the penalty… But, if you're looking at probably having a bonus pool that's at the bottom of the pack, I can understand going for a lot of the guys that you have at the top of your board, and saying "alright, we'll swallow it for next year."
On the Possibility of Backing Out of A Deal
They made those commitments to guys, or sort of gave their word to them, but they didn't have those trades worked out before July 2nd… If teams can't come up with those trades and unless they're really committed, "we're going to honor those deals not matter what"… It could create some very volatile situations with some very powerful dudes, so I don't think that's in the best interest of anyone.
It's not so much that he's young in double-A, I don't really care so much about that, but just the bat control that he has and I think he's a good defender at second base. I like him a lot more than some of these guys who are in the top 30… I certainly understand the strategy that [the Astros] were trying to take this year.
On Talent Tiers
You could put any of those top ten guys in just about any order; I think those guys pretty clearly separated themselves. All ten of those guys, that was pretty strong consensus that those were definitely the top ten ten guys in the class this year. Once you get past the top twenty or so guys, the difference in talent is just so thin…
On Leonard Molina
I think that once Leonardo Molina turns 16 in August, [the Yankees] will probably sign him for about one and a half million dollars…