As expected, the San Francisco Giants made a bit of a splash in the international signing market, signing outfielder Rayner Arias to a bonus reported to be $2.7 million dollars, as the headline of the 2022-2023 signing class that contained 23 players on its first day.  The $2.7 million bonus is the largest the Giants have handed out since MLB changed the international bonus system in 2016, eclipsing the $2.6 million that the Giants gave to Marco Luciano in 2018.

Of the 23 prospect signings the Giants announced, 11 came from Venzuela, including shortstop Yosneiker Rivas, whose $1 million bonus was reported second largest bonus of the class.  Eight prospects came from the Dominican Republic, including Arias.  Two more prospects came from Mexico, one came from Curaçao, and one came from Taiwan, RHP Chen-Hsun Lee, whose connection to the Giants was reported last summer, and is believed to be the first signing by the Giants of an Asian-born amateur player.

For the 2022-2023 signing season, the Giants have a bonus pool of $5,284,000 to spend as they wish.  Arias’s bonus takes up just over 51% of the bonus pool.  While most bonus amounts never get reported, the Giants have been reported to have spent around $4.35 million for just Arias, Rivas, and Lee.  It’s unclear how much other players have been signed for, or exactly how much free money the Giants have left for the period.

Arias, 16, is the son of longtime scout Pablo Arias, and his family connection likely is a big reason he is praised for his advanced baseball IQ and swing.  The right-handed hitter was ranked by as the 15th-best prospect in the international class, although such rankings of teens are very speculative.  Arias has raw plus tools for hitting and power, and shows the ability to be above average in his fielding as well, although he’s expected to be limited to a corner, although his arm is strong enough to play there. projects a comparison to Chicago White Sox outfielder Eloy Jiménez.

There is not much footage of any of the young prospects signed today, but there is video of Arias winning a home run competition in the Dominican Republic at the age of 13.

Lee, 20, is older than most of the international signees.  As a high school pitcher, he was throwing 96 mph with his fastball and was expected to get a bonus in the million dollar range, but suffered a torn UCL and underwent Tommy John surgery.  Now a couple of years removed from surgery, Lee was throwing 94 MPH with his fastball at the Under-23 Baseball World Cup in Mexico this past year.  The Giants have signed him for a reported $650,000.

Lee appears to be the first amateur player signed by the Giants out of Asia in their team history.  The Giants do have a history of signing players from the Far East, including Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese player to play in the Major Leagues in 1964.  However, the players the Giants have pursued in the past are players that have played professionally in leagues in Japan, Korea, or other countries.  The system for signing amateurs is different than the posting system that players like Kodai Senga go through, a player the Giants pursued this last offseason but who signed ultimately with the Mets.  Amateurs are bound to the same rules and limits as those who are more commonly signed in the International Period from Central and South America.  

The deal that Arias signed is the second-highest international bonus the Giants have ever given.  The largest was given to Bermudan shortstop Lucuis Fox in 2015, as the Giants gave him $6 million and pulling off the rare move of signing a player who had been expected to sign with a different team, the Dodgers for $4 million in Fox’s case.

Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement at the time, teams had no actual limit in bonus amounts, but would receive restrictive penalties.  In the Giants’ case, they were restricted to sign players for no more than $300,000 bonuses for the following two seasons.

Before the 2016 season, MLB’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement changed, putting a hard limit on the amount of money teams could spend on international prospects with a bonus pool, that they could either give en masse to one big player, or spread around with many.  

The first season the Giants’ restrictions were lifted was the 2018 signing period, when the Giants signed Luciano for $2.6 million, but also made major signings with Jairo Pomares for $975,000, and Luis Matos for $675,000.

The Giants made modest signings under new President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi in his first few years, headlined by Esmerlin Vinicio for $800K and Aeverson Arteaga for $1.2 million.  The 2020-2021 class was headlined by by shortstop Diego Velasquez for $900,000.  However, the Giants were back to spending bigger money in 2022, signing Bahamian shortstop Ryan Reckley for $2.2 million and catcher Juan Perez for $1.1 million.  The Giants signed only 11 players on day 1 of the 2021-2022 period, compared to the 23 in this year’s.

The International Signing Period once was annually begun on July 2nd, but in 2020 the period was delayed until the following January.  Since then, the periods have all begun in January, and there’s no indication when, or if, the periods will adjust back to July in the future.