The opening of the international signing period is often only REALLY exciting to the truly devout followers of prospects and the minors. There is often very little information out there about international prospects and they are usually (with the exception of many Cuban prospects) very young, around 16-years old. This means that they are even further away from competing in the majors than most draft picks (and the draft suffers from the same lack of interest and enthusiasm due to lack of exposure and lack of immediate impact).
That being said, the Braves were certainly very busy during this signing period, which was a little bizarre. While they were certainly connected to the two guys they signed (Derian Cruz and Cristian Pache), by all accounts the Braves were widely expected to go over their signing bonus pool NEXT year, not this one. Given that this international signing period is supposed to be significantly weaker than the next one in 2016, that would make sense. With the possible installation of an international draft after next year and a better class of talent in 2016, if you want to go over your bonus pool and risk restrictions on your signing, next year is the year to do it. This is relevant because to sign both Pache and Cruz, the Braves would have to go well over their $2,458,400 bonus pool....and that is exactly what they did.
With today's signings, the #Braves will attempt to make some trades to add approximately $1M to their int'l bonus pool to avoid penalties— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) July 2, 2015
For a quick introduction, Derian Cruz is a super fast shortstop prospect who is a switch hitter and is projected by some to have an 80 speed tool as he gets older. An easy comparison to make would be to fellow Braves prospect Ozhaino Albies although Cruz may end up being faster and hit for a lower average. Cristian Pache is an outfield prospect with tons of athleticism and could develop multiple plus tools including power, but he is very raw and has to simplify his swing before he will be able to take advantage of his considerable gifts. Both are 16-years old and both were highly ranked international prospects, although Fangraphs and Baseball America differed significantly on Cristian Pache (Fangraphs had him at #11 while BA had him at #21). However, more thorough introductions to these guys will have to wait until they get in to the development leagues this winter and we can get a better look at them. After the agreements, the Braves had to make the decision as to whether to accept the penalties of not signing high priced international free agents for the next two years or to acquire more bonus pool "slots"/money via trade to avoid penalty. The Braves chose the latter.
Braves and @Athletics completed a trade today, as ATL acquired International Bonus Pool Slot No. 53 in exchange for RHP Cody Martin.— #VoteBraves (@Braves) July 2, 2015
With Cody Martin's future with the Braves being extraordinarily tenuous to begin with given his disappointing tenure in the majors this year, trading him despite have a decent record at AAA makes perfect sense. Losing Garrett Fulenchek and Jordan Paroubeck (two raw, but highly talented prospects in rookie ball) does hurt, but this leads to the question of what the Braves are planning for 2016. John Hart and co. have been very open about their desire to be very active in the international free agent market and obviously going over their bonus pool this year would impede that goal, hence the urgency in acquiring more bonus pool.
There may also be a very specific goal that the Braves have in mind for 2016: Kevin Maitan. The Braves, like everyone else, are interested in the young Venezuelan shortstop who has been compared by many scouts to Miguel Cabrera. That sounds like the hyperbole and exaggeration that is common this time of year, but when Kiley McDaniel starts to jump on board, then its probably time to start getting interested. However, the rumor currently floating around (courtesy of Keith Law) is that the Braves already have a handshake agreement in place with Maitan to sign him in 2016 to a deal that will likely exceed their bonus pool by itself. It's still way too early to project anything, but if the rumors hold true and the Braves go big spending next year (including getting Maitan), it will certainly explain why the Braves were so adamant about not getting penalized this year.