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The Giants aren't likely to sign a top international prospect

Why that's kind of a drag ... but understandable.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Player Year Pos Org Age Country Bonus Inflation-adjusted
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.