All of the talk that has dominated this MLB offseason has revolved around which team will sign Japanese sensation Shohei Otani. This two-way star, whom I wrote about last winter, has an opportunity to make an immediate impact as both a pitcher and as a hitter for whichever MLB team he signs for. What makes this 23-year-old free agent so unique, besides his two-way talents, is the fact that he is still subject to MLB’s international free agency rules, as he is under the age of 25. This means that teams are restricted to spending money from their allotted international free agency pools, which range anywhere from $4.75 million to $5.75 million. This is what opens the door to all 30 teams having the ability to potentially sign Otani, as opposed to teams like the Dodgers and Yankees getting into a bidding war, and pricing teams like the Twins out of the market.
This is where it gets interesting for the Twins. While they do have the advantage of having the 3rd most remaining international free agent money to spend on Otani, at $3.245 million, the list of their advantages pretty much ends there. Sure, they have the need to add starting pitching, and room for another bat in their lineup, but so does every other team, and convincing Otani to come play in Minnesota as opposed to bigger markets is a lot easier said than done. However, one thing that teams can do is trade for other teams international signing pool money, but since almost all 30 teams are gearing up for a run at Otani, there aren’t many teams that are all that willing to trade their money away, as they are interested in acquiring more themselves.
By simply following the most basic economic rules of supply and demand, it is easy to see why the Twins should consider trading away their international free agent money. The Twins are a team that is ready to compete now, so if they look to trade this money, they could acquire some talent that is close to the major league level, at a much higher value than this money would otherwise be worth. Otherwise this money would most likely be used to sign what is left of this year’s international free agent class, which is mostly made up of 16 and 17-year-olds, or to sign one of the 12 Atlanta Braves prospects that have recently been made available after the Braves signing scandal. However, short of signing Kevin Maitin, the Twins might be able to get better prospects from trading their international money. It would make a lot more sense to trade this money away now, rather than sit on it in a failed attempt to sign Otani, and see its value go way down once Otani signs with another team.