Boston Red Sox Hit With Severe Penalties for International Player Violations

Former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington's legacy will be tainted by the fall-out from the team's international free agent signing violations. Photo: (USATSI)

There are really two ways for a major league baseball team to acquire young talent.

One is the draft. Everyone knows about the draft, every major pro team sport has one. There are various rounds, the top picks are the big names, and so on and so forth.

In Major League Baseball there’s another route teams can acquire young and relatively unknown players.

The International player pool.

The international player pool is a big deal. That’s where guys like Xander Bogaerts, Rafeal Devers, and Anderson Espinoza came from. Manual Margot and Javier Guerra, the two key prospects that the Red Sox sent to the San Diego Padres last November in exchange for Craig Kimbrel were both acquired via International free agency.

Each team has a cap on the money they’re able to spend each year on International free agents. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the Red Sox violated the integrity of that rule.

“Boston was limited last year to spending a maximum of $300,000 on international prospects after exceeding its spending limit the year before by spending $62 million on Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. The Red Sox skirted the $300,000 threshold by packaging highly regarded prospects with lesser ones, paying both similarly and allowing the players’ agent to give the lion’s share of the money to the better prospect, according to the source.”

The punishment is quite severe. The Red Sox are banned from signing any International players for one year. If that was the totality of the punishment, it would be pretty harsh. The Red Sox have invested heavily in international scouting, and it has paid off with the franchise being able to add above-average to elite prospects on an annual basis.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox,  the punishment doesn’t end with that one-year ban. Last year’s class of signees, considered by many to be among the better crops of prospects in the majors, are all being declared free agents. In other words not only do the Red Sox miss out on the opportunity to add international talent over the next year, they’ve lost an entire year’s worth of key additions from last year.

The punishment will cost the Red Sox five prospects, Albert Guaimaro and Simon Muzziotti are outfielders, Antonio Pinero and Eduardo Torrealba are both infielders, Cesar Gonzalez is a right-handed pitching prospect.

Guaimaro and Muzziotti are both 17-years-old. The two Venezuelan natives are the most well-regarded of the five Red Sox prospects, and now both of them will no longer be Red Sox prospects.

This is a major blow to the Red Sox.

In the short-term it could impact Dave Dombrowski’s ability to make trades. Young players with lots of raw talent are always welcome additions to multi-player trade packages which are bundled together in an effort to add a valuable commodity such as a top major league starting pitcher.

Ben Badler of Baseball America tweeted that the Red Sox were expected to sign several talented 16-year olds from Venezuela on Saturday, that possibility has now been wiped out.

Over the longterm, this punishment could have a major impact on overall organizational depth. It  places a ton of pressure on the team to find prospects via the 2017 MLB amateur draft. If they don’t then the team will be staring at a series of lost seasons when it comes to adding young prospects.

It is highly unlikely that any of the five players the Red Sox will lose would have even sniffed the majors over the next few years. That being said, if you’re perusing those annual top prospect and top minor league system rankings in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and you notice the Red Sox with a lack of top prospects and low organizational ranking,  the punishment handed down on July 1, 2016 may very well be one of the primary reasons for that.

About the Author

Ben Shapiro
Red Sox columnist for ESPN New Hampshire. Originally from Western Massachusetts, I currently live in New York City with my wife and dog. I've previously written for Huffington Post, Bleacher Report and MassLive.com

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