The new, markedly prohibitive spending limits on international free agents go into effect on July 2nd. From that point on, all teams will be restricted to spending $2.9 million for the whole year on foreign amateurs under the age of 23. The limit will rise incrementally year-to-year.
For teams that have invested heavily in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, etc., it's pretty unwelcome. For those who think that the international talent crop is best stimulated by lucrative signing bonuses, it's pretty discouraging for the future of the league.
But for the White Sox, who historically aren't particularly keen in spending money now for possible reward later, it promised to drag the market prices kicking and screaming back to a territory where they would be more comfortable. Especially now that the international scouting department for the White Sox under Marco Paddy has a pulse.
But that's July 2nd. That's not now. Right now, things remain unregulated.
On Thursday, The Cubs signed 18 year-old Cuban LHP Gerardo Concepcion for $7 million. Concepcion is considered a finesse, control-oriented lefty who is more promising for his precocious development rather than having a frontline starter ceiling. He was also considered the third-best of the three Cuban prospects on the market, and he got $7 million, and a spot on the 40-man roster, even though he'll probably start in Low-A.
The partisan reception of the Cubs' move is positive, since Cuba is generally perceived to be a talented and under-utilized market, and because their front office is regarded to be very competent, the assumption is that they have (rightly) assessed Concepcion to be worth more than the general opinion on him would suggest, hence the major deal.
This strikes me as a similar reasoning to what justified the Nestor Molina trade, where the White Sox considered him a top of the rotation prospect even if the general consensus didn't, and paid for him as such. Or more derisively, they bid against themselves.
But it seems like the Cubs weren't doing that, seeing as there supposedly seven other teams in on Concepcion--and maybe the White Sox as well--the signing probably reflects not one team going crazy, but the market for Concepcion, and the corresponding ones for Soler and Cespedes, inflating rapidly.
Part of that could just be this being a rare influx of Cuban talent generating a lot of excitement, but the nearing onset of the new CBA offers the teams that are able, their last chance to aggressively outbid competitors for the top-level amateur talent available.
At the very least, it helps set the markets for Soler and Cespedes. If it takes a $7 million contract with additional incentives to land an 18 year-old pitcher who doesn't project to have a whole lot of power, well then, 5-tool outfielders tend to run a fair bit pricier. While the White Sox are showing a bit more courage in investing in amateur talent, and have been known to have the occasional outburst, but are unlikely to be interested in a bidding war at this point in their rebuilding cycle.
More than anything, the White Sox need to get more efficient in their roster building, both by investing in the draft, international scouting, or just less veteranophilia. If Concepcion's deal is any indication, Cuba isn't going to be the first step in that process.