Red Sox sign international free agent Anderson Espinoza

Jared Wickerham

The Red Sox strike big on day one of the new international signing period by grabbing two of the top pitchers.

After already inking Christopher Acosta, one of the top pitchers available in the latest run of international signings, the Red Sox have grabbed another in Anderson Espinoza. According to Baseball America, Espinoza is the top pitcher in the entire international class, and the fourth-ranked prospect overall.

The 16-year-old Espinoza hails from Venezuela, and the rumors were that he would cost around $2 million. For the sake of perspective, that's more than Boston's entire allotted budget for international signings until July 2 of next year: the Sox only had $1.88 million and change to play with. They got him for just under that budget, however, agreeing to a $1.8 million deal. When you add Acosta's $1.5 million deal to it, though, you can see they've still almost doubled their entire budget in a matter of hours.

Penalties are not as severe for the international market as they are for the draft, however: when the Sox officially go over their budget, they'll be limited to signing players for no more than a $300,000 bonus for two years, but on the plus side, they'll have Espinoza (as well as Acosta) already in the system and developing.

Why does that matter? Baseball America describes Espinoza as having a "frame that's undersized by conventional scouting standards but has the best arm in the class. His fastball has steadily picked up speed over the last year, sitting in the low-90s and touching 94." They go on to say that, with his arm action and delivery, he's projected to throw even harder with time. He already has a curveball and a change-up, and has experience in both national and international tournaments -- I'm sure you are shocked that the Red Sox would be interested in a player tournament experience.

Basically, he's the total package as much as any 16-year-old can be, and the Sox have bet big on him becoming their first significant international starting pitcher in quite some time. A lot can happen between now and the days he reaches the majors -- if those days come at all -- but you can't fault the Sox for going big two years in a row now, first with offense and Rafael Devers, and now with pitching.

Just because the Red Sox are already over budget doesn't mean they are done signing players, by the way. All they've done is sign the two big pieces they have been linked to for months, and did so immediately. The rest of this international signing period will be full of low-cost prospects, but that doesn't mean they're nobodies: Xander Bogaerts signed for $510,000 in August of 2009, and Felix Doubront agreed to a deal for just $150,000 10 years ago.

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