The Houston Astros have already exceeded the international bonus pool budget.
The Astros signed Yulieski Gurriel and several others over the past 12 months. Because they did, they will have some restrictions for future international signing periods. According to Jesse Sanchez, “Houston spent close to $9 million on 27 international prospects since the signing period began last July.” While you are already over the allotted amount, why not go all in and add a little bit more?
The Astros will now not be able to sign an international free agent for more than $300K during the next international signing period. This begins on July 2. Which means the Astros will no longer get the premium international players to sign with them for that amount. Even if the player wants to come to Houston, he could get more money elsewhere. However, before that time, anything goes for the Astros.
That is if they are willing to pay the piper. Like what happened with Cionel Perez, the Stros had to pay double to get his services. This overage fee would be on any other players until July 2. Then they will be subject to the penalty. Without being able to make any notable splashes in the next signing period, maybe they will make one last one this signing period.
While there are other teams in the mix for 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, the Astros may have the most to gain by signing him. Depending on who you talk to, the Astros are among the 3-4 teams favored to sign him. Ben Badler says the White Sox and the Cardinals are the favorites to sign Robert, but other reports conflict that.
Jeff Passan has also heard that the Cardinals and the White Sox were the favorites, with a $20 million dollar price tag. Then again, Jon Heyman thinks that the White Sox might be moving on from Robert. Heyman is one of the few people who still thinks the Astros are in it. Either way, we will get a better idea on Saturday. Just because he is eligible to sign on Saturday doesn’t mean that he will.
Whoever signs Robert will be getting the last big money international free agent under the old CBA. The Astros depleted some of the farm system in trades in recent years to get to this point. With all the international moves they have made, they have had a big influx of talent into the system. Plus, the Astros got some extra picks in Hack Gate from the Cardinals. The Astros are the best team in baseball, and they are trying to improve the future as well.
Unlike Gurriel, Robert will not be ready right away. Many give him an ETA of 2019. Should the Astros sign Robert and make some good moves in the MLB Draft, they may be willing to trade away talent. With the names Gerrit Cole, Jose Quintana, and Marco Estrada being thrown around, prospects will be traded. Among the names will be Kyle Tucker, Francis Martes, and Derek Fisher.
With Robert on the team, the Astros may be more willing to part with Tucker. However, they are really trying to hold onto Tucker. Robert is still young and unproven, but he is the biggest name out there. Losing Tucker would sting, but Robert could be a similar player. We could find out tomorrow, but they are not favorites at the moment.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***