July 2nd is an important date on the calendar these days. That's the first day that teams can sign the 2015-2016 international free agent class. Think of it like the draft, but for prospects outside of the United States (including Puerto Rico) and Canada. Except, it's not a draft, it's a free agent market with caps on spending. The Padres were assigned a cap of $2,691,800. You can trade with other teams for some of their cap space (a lot of teams were doing this) or you can spend over the cap and incur some penalties depending on how much. The Padres are expected to go over a little over their cap and for that they will only have to pay a dollar for dollar fine on the overage. Other penalties decrease future caps, but the Padres are not planning to do that this year.
When the Padres hired A.J. Preller, much of his credentials centered around his international scouting experience. These sort of signings should be a strength that he brings to the club. Preller brought over Chris Kemp from the Rangers organization and promoted him to International Scouting Director. Kemp was a Rangers area scout, but it seems that Preller was ready to groom him for more. Kemp has already been hard at work bringing in international talent, signing a number of players from the 2014-2015 class. However, July 2 is when the competition is fierce and talent is higher profile and the signing bonuses are bigger. So how did the Padres do?
The Padres had the 12th highest bonus pool and this year are not willing to incur serious penalties by going too far above the limit. With that in mind, the expectations are tempered some since the teams with the best classes will have bigger allotted pools of money or be willing to incur penalties. Venezuelan SS Kevin Melean reportedly signed for $500,000 and Baseball America ranked him as their 26th best international prospect and Fangraphs ranked him 24th. The club has also agreed to a deal with Mexican RH SP Andres Munoz for $700,000 who Fangraphs ranked as their 29th best prospect. There are 30 teams vying for talent, so getting two of the top 30 sounds pretty good. Especially when you consider that the top 7 to 10 prospects have or will receive bonuses that exceed the Padres' entire bonus pool.
The Padres also signed a number of other players on their way to using up their whole signing bonus cap. Dominican right hander Henry Henry, who has to have one of the more interesting names in this class, signed for $400,000. Left handed Venezuelan starting pitcher Jose Cabrera also signed for $400,000. As did another Venezuela SS Kelvin Alarcon. A third Venezuelan SS, Reinaldo Illiraza, signed for $300,000.
After the word got out on these signings, Chris Kemp was quoted (by both Dennis Lin and Corey Brock) as saying:
"I'd say we're extremely happy. Three blue-chip arms and three gamer shortstops."
There certainly has been a lot of clamoring for the Padres to add shortstops, especially since the Padres traded Trea Turner in the Wil Myers deal this offseason, and you can never have enough quality arms in the minors. Still, these young men are many years away from the majors. It's exciting to see the Padres adding quality talent via one of the avenues available to them, but it takes a long time for a 16 year old to develop into a major leaguer. And the Padres have had their struggles over the years developing the talent they have signed. We shall wait and see.