On July 2nd of this year, two things happened: 1) It was my nana’s 72nd birthday (Happy Birthday, Nana!); and 2) Major League Baseball teams were allowed to begin signing 16 year old players who weren’t born in Canada or the United States (and Puerto Rico), and will turn 17 years old by September 1st. There are also rules dictating when the signed player can actually be put on a professional team’s roster within an organization. Sound convoluted? It is.

A few years ago, the Cincinnati Reds signed an international free agent whose own representatives didn’t even know he was eligible to sign. The Reds manipulated the rules that allowed for a player to sign with a club if he turns 17 before the end of his first professional season, and inked Juan Duran to a deal. The team then put him on an affiliate roster three days before the Minor League team’s season officially ended.

This year, the international free agent market has been a bit more straight forward, with the Texas Rangers making the biggest splash, signing Dominican outfielders Nomar Mazara with a record bonus of more than $5 million and Ronald Guzman with a signing bonus of $3.5 million.

The Toronto Blue Jays have also made a couple of interesting signings, handing out bonuses to Dominican infielder Dawel Lugo and Nicaraguan pitcher Osman Gutierrez. At 6’1″, Lugo’s scouting report sounds similar to another Dominican infielder in the Blue Jays organization: Jose Bautista. In Baseball America, Ben Badler credits Lugo with good bat speed and an ability to create natural loft on the balls he makes contact with. Meanwhile, right hander Gutierrez may be promising based solely on his 6’4″, 200 pound frame at only 16 years of age.

It’s interesting that with all of the hype in recent years surrounding MLB’s first year player draft, more attention isn’t paid to the international free agent signing period. Jim Callis, also of Baseball America raises an excellent point in a recent chat on his website.

I’m still waiting for Bud Selig to explain why it’s OK for the Rangers to give $5 million to Nomar Romaza and $3.5 million to Ronald Guzman, both Dominican outfielders, yet it’s a capital offense for any club to exceed MLB’s ridiculously low bonus recommendations for the draft. Other than “The commissioner’s office is horribly short-sighted when it comes to the draft,” I don’t have any answers.

While “capital offense” may be a bit of an exaggeration for going over slot, Callis does put the spotlight on a glaring contradiction between the first year players draft and international signings. Nonetheless, both areas represent great value for a team’s dollar, especially in comparison to the sometimes ridiculous cost of free agent signings during the offseason.

And The Rest

The American League is the champion of interleague once again.

Ahead of his likely free agency this coming offseason, MLBTR compares Jose Reyes to Carl Crawford.

Woohoo! The Roger Clemens trial begins this week.

Bryce Harper didn’t disappoint in his Double A debut.

Considering Francisco Rodriguez’s vesting option depends on the number of games he finishes, would the New York Yankees really be the best destination for him?

The San Diego Padres might have the relievers that the Yankees so desperately seek.

The Houston Astros bent over a little bit too far in welcoming the Boston Red Sox during a recent interleague series.

Despite a grand slam from Shaun Marcum, the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen can’t keep the lead against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Philadelphia Phillies pitching coach would prefer if Roy Halladay not start the All-Star game in Arizona.

The New York Mets signed Miguel Batista to a Minor League deal. Seems about right.

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington thinks that Angel Hernandez is just a bad umpire.

Your awesome old school poster of the day:

And finally, your Ozzie Guillen tweet of the day: