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Among the busy free agent news in the NBA and Bruins yesterday, the MLB dropped the hammer on the Red Sox. For many years, the Red Sox have had a very strong international scouting program. and have not been afraid to spend big money on international players and tap into new markets. Xander Bogaerts was signed out of Aruba through this system and has become one of the best players in baseball. The Red Sox have also had a strong pipeline in Latin America, but according to the MLB investigation, they weren’t exactly following the rules.

A few years ago the Red Sox were found in violation of the rules and given a cap on international signings for 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 of $300,000. That prevented them from signing any higher-level talent, but didn’t prevent them from signing a few younger amateur prospects including 17-year-old center fielders, Albert Guaimaro and Simon Muzziotti. It seemed like the punishments were over, until the MLB decided to investigate further and found that the Red Sox conspired to circumvent the $300,000 cap and continued to break the rules.

The punishment for the violations are the release of 5 Red Sox prospects, an unprecedented ruling in baseball. As far as I know, no players have ever been removed from a roster due to an MLB punishment. The 2 aforementioned players are among the 5 and are now free agents. The bigger punishment is a ban from signing international players for 1 year (until July 2, 2017) which puts a halt on a successful scouting program.

The ruling may hurt a little in the lower levels of the system, but I don’t know if it will really have a big long term effect. I expect the Red Sox international scouting program will come back strong in 2017 and have just a small gap in talent in the lower levels of the system.