Seattle acquired extra international bonus pool money to get Shohei Ohtani. Now that he's signed with the Angels, the Mariners need to spend it before they lose it on June 15.
Imagine having an extra $3.557 million sitting around just waiting to be spent. And you have to use it by June 15 or lose it.
Well, that’s the position the Mariners find themselves in now after Shohei Ohtani left them at the baseball altar and ran off with the Los Angeles Angels instead.
Much has been written and discussed about the Mariners’ and general manager Jerry Dipoto’s publicized pursuit of the hitting and pitching phenom from Japan.
As part of the quest to get Ohtani, Dipoto made three trades to accumulate $2.5 million in international bonus pool money to go with their $1.07 million already in the pool. The $3.557 million was the most of any of the seven finalists for Ohtani. Bonus pool money was the only additional dollars a team could give Ohtani above a standard Major League Baseball rookie contract. But with his decision to take a lesser bonus of $2.315 million and play with the Angels, it leaves Dipoto with money to spend.
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- Right-hander reliever Thyago Vieira sent to the White Sox for $500,000 in bonus pool money
- Catcher David Banuelos sent to the Twins for $1 million in bonus pool money.
- Right-handed pitchers Nick Neidert and Robert Dugger, infielder Christopher Torres to the Marlins for second baseman Dee Gordon and $1 million in bonus pool money.
There are a few stipulations on how the Mariners can spend it. The money must be spent by the June 15 deadline or be lost. And it can only be spent on international free agents under age 25. The Mariners can’t use that money toward signing current MLB players.
So who is out there?
Well, the best player remaining is outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez.
Martinez, 21, left Cuba in November and established residency in Haiti. He’s awaiting the expected clearance from Major League Baseball to become a free agent eligible for this current signing period.
On Friday, Martinez and his representatives held an open workout at the Dodgers facility in Guerra in the Dominican Republic.
Martinez is a speedy centerfield that stands 5-10 and weighs 180 pounds with a left-handed swing. He played in the top Cuban professional league — Serie Nacional — last season, hitting .333 with a .469 on-base percentage and .498 slugging percentage in 264 plate appearances with 11 doubles, two triples, six homers, 27 RBIs, 24 stolen bases and 52 walks in 61 games. He also played Trois Rivieres in the independent Canadian-American Association, hitting .297 with a .794 on-base plus slugging percentage, 11 doubles, two triples, seven homers, 21 RBI, 20 stolen bases and 17 walks in 57 games.
The Yankees are also said to be interested in Martinez.
Shortstop Jelfry Marte is considered No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 international prospects. Marte originally agreed to a $3 million bonus with the Twins. However, Minnesota voided the contract after issues arose in Marte’s physical — specifically vision issues. He was declared a free agent and has already had open workouts for scouts.
There are also six former Braves prospects that were declared free agents by MLB after the organization was found to be in violation of signing rules. It led to the permanent ban of Braves GM John Coppolella and the firings and punishment of several others.
Of the 13 players released, seven players have already signed with other teams. Of the six remaining, there are a few interesting possibilities.
Third baseman/shortstop Yenci Pena, who played on the Braves’ Dominican Summer League team at age 16 is a possibility along with 17-year-old, right-handed pitcher Juan Contreras, who has topped out at 94 mph with his fastball. Teams have until Jan. 15 to sign one of the players.
There are also still handful of top international prospects that remain unsigned for unknown reasons.
No player that the Mariners will sign will offer the same immediate help to the big league roster that Ohtani would have provided. However, the Mariners did trade away five players to get that bonus money and will definitely use it to sign more since it’s available.