The Giants have never picked first in the amatuer draft. They've never gazed upon the vast amateur landscape with the knowledge that they could have any player they wanted. Man, that must be an empowering feeling.
Yet every July, the Giants kind of have a first-round pick. They just have to buy it. It sure seems like they don't bother, though, at least at a quick glance. They aren't mentioned in the Baseball America article on the top-30 prospects this year, and their two biggest signings so far are for a relatively modest $500,000 or less. Why are they so cheap?
Answer: They're not. Here are the biggest signing bonuses up to 2011 (source), ranked by signing bonuses adjusted to approximate 2014 dollars.
|Michael Ynoa||2008||RHP||Athletics||16||Dominican Republic||$4.25 million||$4.7 million|
|Miguel Sano||2009||SS||Twins||16||Dominican Republic||$3.15 million||$3.5 million|
|Wily Mo Pena||1999||OF||Yankees||17||Dominican Republic||$2.44 million||$3.5 million|
|Gary Sanchez||2009||C||Yankees||16||Dominican Republic||$3 million||$3.3 million|
|Adonys Cardona||2010||RHP||Blue Jays||16||Venezuela||$2.8 million||$3.1 million|
|Chin-Hui Tsao||1999||RHP||Rockies||18||Taiwan||$2.2 million||$3.1 million|
|Joel Guzman||2001||SS||Dodgers||16||Dominican Republic||$2.255 million||$3.0 million|
|Luis Heredia||2010||RHP||Pirates||16||Mexico||$2.6 million||$2.8 million|
|Ariel Ovando||2010||OF||Astros||16||Dominican Republic||$2.6 million||$2.8 million|
|Rafael Rodriguez||2008||OF||Giants||16||Dominican Republic||$2.55 million||$2.8 million|
|Yorman Rodriguez||2008||OF||Reds||16||Venezuela||$2.5 million||$2.8 million|
|Miguel Cabrera||1999||SS||Marlins||16||Venezuela||$1.9 million||$2.7 million|
|Byung-Hyun Kim||1999||RHP||Diamondbacks||20||South Korea||$2.25 million||$2.5 million|
|Angel Villalona||2006||3B||Giants||16||Dominican Republic||$2.1 million||$2.5 million|
|Phillips Castillo||2010||OF||Mariners||16||Dominican Republic||$2.2 million||$2.4 million|
|Renato Nunez||2010||3B||Athletics||16||Venezuela||$2.2 million||$2.4 million|
|Juan Duran||2008||OF||Reds||16||Dominican Republic||$2 million||$2.2 million|
|Guillermo Pimentel||2009||OF||Mariners||16||Dominican Republic||$2 million||$2.2 million|
|Adys Portillo||2008||RHP||Padres||16||Venezuela||$2 million||$2.2 million|
|Jose Vinicio||2009||SS||Red Sox||16||Dominican Republic||$1.95 million||$2.2 million|
The Giants are right there, with two players in the top 20. To further elaborate, they're right there, with two players in the top 20 whom they wish they didn't sign.
While there are some successes up there (Miguel Sano is one of very best prospects and the subject of a fascinating documentary) and ultra-successes (MIguel Cabrera is a Hall of Famer if he retires tomorrow), that's not the sexiest list of franchise-changing talent. If the Giants went down to the Dominican Republic with $10 million in unmarked bills, they probably wouldn't leave with a superstar.
Those 20 bonuses add up to $56.7 million, which is about what two of Cabrera's seasons are worth, give or take. So it almost makes sense to outspend everyone to get all of the top prospects if you're guaranteed a Miguel Cabrera with every 20th purchase.
You are not guaranteed a Miguel Cabrera.
Forget about him -- he's the ultimate outlier in this discussion. It doesn't make sense to have a spend-no-matter-what philosophy. The results just aren't there, at least with the historically significant bonuses. It only makes sense to spend big if you're completely goofy over a player, which the Giants were for Villalona and Rodriguez. They regret those decisions now.
With the new cap rules in place, the Giants have only $2.46 million to spend if they want to be eligible to sign a player over $500,000 next year. If they completely blow the doors off the market, they'll be unable to sign a player for more than $250,000 next year. It looks like that's what the Yankees and Red Sox are doing, and that's a hint that it could be the preferred strategy for rich teams. But unless you're really, really sold on this specific international class, it seems like trading a pair of next year's first-rounders for a first-rounder this year.
Short post shorter: Don't get weird about the Giants "only" spending a maximum of $500,000 on their top international signing. Spreading the money around has its charms, too. The biggest international success story for the Giants since Juan Marichal was a pudgy catcher from Venezuela who didn't make any top-30 lists.
Now-longer post somewhat longer: Just walk away with this with a Pablo Sandoval, and we'll be cool, Giants.
While it's fun to poke fun at the panda hats and lack of free-agent activity for the Giants, they've been active in the international market, albeit with limited success. Throwing more money at the players doesn't seem to guarantee success, so we probably shouldn't judge this class based on the size of the bonuses.
We should judge it on names.
Sandro Fabian. Sandro Fabian. Sandro Fabian. Sandro Fabian. Sandro Fabian. Sandro Fabian. Sandro Fabian.