As of today, the 2024 international amateur signing period is officially open. The Athletics have made a number of moves during the signing period in the past few years, and they're expected to be active in 2024 as well.
Right hander Luis Morales is one of the most recent additions for the A's, signed in January of last year. Infielder Jordan Diaz and outfielder Lazaro Armenteros were also signed as international amateurs, both of whom occupy spots on the A's 40-man roster.
What is international amateur free agency?
The IAFA process is a means of allowing players to enter into MLB systems, as they are not eligible for the Rule 4 draft due to their residency status. Players must meet the following criteria to be eligible:
- Must reside outside of the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, and cannot have attended high school in any of those locations within the last year
- Must turn 16 years old before September 1st, 2024
IAFA is different from international free agency. Players like Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who came over at 25 years old and with the requisite six years of professional experience, fall under a different set of rules than IAFA.
How do team budgets work?
Teams are assigned an IAFA budget based on a few factors, including signing or losing free agents with a qualifying offer attached and luxury tax spending the previous season. All teams receive a minimum of $4.75 million in bonus pool money, with teams with Competitive Balance Draft Picks being given slightly more. In April 2023, Baseball America reported ($) that the Athletics have a bonus pool cap of $6.52 million.
Technically speaking, these are hard caps, meaning that teams are not allowed to spend more than their allotted amount. However, teams can increase their total budget by up to 60% by acquiring IAFA money in trades. Teams can increase their total budget by up to $250k per trade.
Are there limits on how many players a team can sign?
No, as long as the team stays within its budget. It's important to note that players who sign for fewer than $10k are not counted toward the team's total budget figure. Teams can and frequently do sign a number of players in IAFA.
One major difference between 2024 and MLB several years ago is that the league forced teams to contract their number of minor league affiliates. We used to see teams with several DSL teams and countless players within the organization. Organizations these days can have a maximum of six affiliated teams, which limits the number of players an org can control.
Will the Athletics be active in IAFA?
I'd expect them to be, yes. They've been linked to a number of guys in the top-50, and have had some success rebuilding their IAFA program over the years. Robert Puason is the most notable bust in recent years, but the A's have also pulled a number of guys that are real contributors to their minor league system and should be contributing in the majors in 2024.
IAFA is a great way for teams to add talent to their systems, and the A's are no different. The system isn't seen as objectively strong so pulling a couple of the top names on the board would be a big plus for this organization.