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Que Pasa? International Free Agency, that's what.

Today is the official open of International Free Agency. Consider this a handy dandy primer on some of the key rules to keep in mind, helpful links and who the Phillies may be linked to.

LA already looking grumpy about a whole new crop of difficult names he may one day need to learn to pronounce
LA already looking grumpy about a whole new crop of difficult names he may one day need to learn to pronounce

Is there anything in the sports world as projection laden and risky as MLB's International Free Agency (IFA)? It involves signing 16 year old kids for hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, while projecting what that kid might be able to do in 8-10 years. I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone who looked anything like their 16 year old self when they got to 22-23 years old. These kids may get taller (I'm not sure if they get their wrists x-rayed to determine if they still have height to add, but I doubt that they do). Introduced for likely the first time to professional quality weight rooms, they'll add muscle. Teams have varying degrees of control they exert over prospects diets. The Marlins are pretty hands off with most players, while the Indians have fairly strict rules about what foods are allowed in minor league clubhouses, but you're still talking about kids with meal stipends, who will eat what kids their age eat. Some will eat healthy, some won't. So it's a safe bet some kids will grow out of their current positions.

It's risky business and in the past the Phillies mostly stayed out of it, just signing a few low profile guys. They've ramped up their output of late, but they still prefer to spread their funds over a number of mid-tier prospects instead of blowing 80% of it on one kid. The Phillies' scouts seem to do a nice job in Latin America, as they've gotten low profile players like Galvis, Ruiz, Hernandez and mid-tier guys like Domingo Santana, Maikel Franco. You still end up with kids who can't make it past the GCL (or even to there sometimes), but by spreading the risk it gives the Phillies a better chance at a winning lottery ticket.

The latest CBA included changes to the IFA rules. The current rule allows a sliding scale of pool money available to teams to sign IFA. The team with the worst record gets the most money, the team with the best record gets the least money. IFA pool money can be traded, but I'm not aware of many being included in trades yet. For the Phillies, they can spend up to $2.3 Million this year.

Additionally, players who will turn 16 in the Calendar year are eligible for IFA, but cannot be signed until they officially turn 16 (this happened with Carlos Tocci, who was a late signing). In other words, if you wake up tomorrow and the Phillies signed no one, don't worry, they might be targetting some younger prospects. In fact, one guy the Phillies are reportedly targetting is Juan Encarnacion, a Third Base prospect who doesn't turn 16 until 09 August.

I don't expect any big news on a Phillies signing today, but there will be (and already has been) big news on other teams signing big money IFA. The Phillies won't likely sign one of the big money guys (though Encarnacion may end up getting low 7 figures). It's a strategy difference. The Red Sox spent well over half their IFA budget on a single player(Rafael Devers). That's part of their strategy, but it's not typically part of the Phillies' strategy for IFA. Today and through the summer the Phillies are likely to sign some kids you've never heard of, and it's highly likely you'll never really hear much about many of them again. There's always the chance that somewhere in that group in the next Chooch or Freddy or Franco. Perhaps you're a severe optimist and want to dream of there being a Miggy or Profar in there. Just remember there's a lot in front of these kids and any number of pitfalls to keep them from the Majors, so enjoy following them and remember it's not worth getting too excited or too bummed over who the Phillies did or didn't sign in IFA.

Helpful links:

MLB Top 25 IFA

Ben Badler's handy dandy IFA page at BA (Pay wall)

Insanely in-depth fan post over at Minor League Ball