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New MLB Rule For International Prospects Could Greatly Affect Cubs

(CBS) Under the leadership of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, the Cubs have invested heavily in international scouting in recent seasons.

Now, a main pillar of their rebuilding plan appears to be in jeopardy.

Major League Baseball has changed its rules regarding how clubs can evaluate international amateur players, Baseball America reported, as it has mandated immediately that international prospects aren't allowed to be at a team's facility until they are either 16 or six months before they become eligible to sign, whichever may come first.

This could be troublesome for the Cubs because they've used a lot of resources to scout international players, some younger than 16, in an attempt to exploit a market inefficiency of sorts in countries rich in baseball talent. In 2013, the Cubs opened up a multi-million-dollar baseball academy on 50 acres in La Gina in the Dominican Republic that's the biggest of its sort among MLB teams that have built similar facilities.

"It's about doing everything we can to be the best organization in baseball, and you can't be the best organization in baseball unless you have a strong presence in the Dominican and a strong presence in Latin America," Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said in February 2012.

The Cubs' investment in international prospects was reflected in the team overspending on signing such free agents in 2013. The Cubs had to pay a tax because they went over their alloted money to spend.

While the Cubs haven't publicly commented yet, 670 The Score's Dan Bernstein reported club officials are upset about the new rule that's immediately effective.

More from Baseball America:

That rule change will have a major effect on how teams evaluate talent in Latin America. Most teams consider bringing players into their academies in the Dominican Republic the most important and efficient means of player evaluation. The academy allows teams to bring in players from all over Latin America and put them through whatever evaluation process they feel is optimal — simulated games, bullpen, situational drills — to get the best gauge of the player's talent and personality.

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