The Seattle Mariners trading a 24-year-old, 100-mph throwing pitcher to the Chicago White Sox for international slot money raises the question of why, and for two reasons:
1. Why give up on Thyago Vieira? And...
2. International slot money? What’s that?
That money is what teams use to sign international free agents, which is capped by Major League Baseball. The Mariners just got more on Thursday – according to the Associated Press, $500,000 – which means they now can offer a player such as Shohei Otani a bigger signing bonus.
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Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor-league contract with a signing bonus under MLB’s new collective bargaining agreement. This trade increases the Mariners’ available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.
It is connecting the dots a little bit, but it’s not a stretch. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto went to Japan earlier this year to get eyes on Otani, who is considered to be Japan’s Babe Ruth for abilities to pitch and hit home runs. This does not guarantee anything, but it does add to the Mariners’ ability to make a more attractive offer to Otani, who is going to be pursued by many teams.
In the short term, the Mariners surrender an intriguing prospect.
Vieira appeared in one game in 2017, making his MLB debut Aug. 14 vs. Baltimore, striking out one in pitching a scoreless inning. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-hander began the season with Double-A Arkansas, where he went 2-3 with 3.72 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings and advanced to Triple-A Tacoma in July (0-1, 4.58 ERA in 17 2/3 innings).
The native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, signed with Seattle as a non-drafted free agent on Sept. 21, 2010. In parts of seven minor-league seasons in the Mariners’ organization, Vieira is 14-19 with 13 saves and a 4.58 ERA.
Seattle’s 40-man roster is now at 35.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.