The budgets for the 2015-2016 international signing period, beginning this July 2, were released by MLB, and the Red Sox have the sixth-most to spend at $3,681,000. This is roughly twice as much as they were allotted a year ago, but Boston is going to be able to get far less for their money this time around, thanks to their 2014-2015 international signings.
The Red Sox went over their $1.88 million budget for the current signing period hours in -- on July 2, 2014, they agreed to terms with teenage pitchers Anderson Espinoza and Chris Acosta for a combined $3.3 million. This guaranteed two things: they would be penalized a 100 percent tax on their international spending in the 2014-2015 period, and they would not be able to hand out any bonuses over $300,000 for the next two signing periods.
This was a calculated risk, the idea being that these 16-year-old prospects are so far off from the majors that it's better to go all-in on the ones you like in the present rather than worry about what might be missed later: sure, there will be more promising 16-year-old prospects two years from the time of your splurge, but you would be in possession of two 18-year-old talents that were far closer to making it to the bigs.
These signings also had a second positive side effect, in that it eliminated one of the major barriers to acquiring 19-year-old Cuban sensation Yoan Moncada. The Red Sox didn't have to debate whether Moncada was worth the financial and player acquisition penalties, because they were already in a position where they had to submit to them -- these penalties are what kept the Dodgers from opening up their substantial coffers for Moncada.
New Dodgers' president Andrew Friedman didn't want to lose future signing opportunities. (Photo credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
In addition to concern over the penalties, signing Espinoza and Acosta to deals that pushed them over budget on day one of the signing period made getting Moncada easier in another way: teams quietly agree to deals with international free agents well before the new signing periods begin, and since the Red Sox knew they couldn't go big on anyone in 2015-2016, they didn't have any agreements they needed to break off in order to acquire Moncada in the now. This wasn't planned by Boston -- Moncada didn't even officially depart Cuba until the end of June last year, and it was unknown when he would be a free agent -- but it was a solid bonus their earlier dealings allowed.
Ramirez likely to change positions, not Sandoval
Although seemingly everyone assumes Pablo Sandoval will move off third in the next few years, the other new member of the lineup is more likely to change positions.
So, now that all of that is out of the way, what can the Sox do with the nearly $3.7 million they have allotted to them from July 2 through June 15 or 2016? They could still sign a whole bunch of players for $300,000 each, and it's not like every useful or even great international player you know of has been signed to bonus of $1 million or more. The right scouts in the right places can make this work, and even if they do not, the Sox have Espinoza and Acosta, two of the top pitchers of this current signing period, and Moncada, one of the 10-15 best prospects in baseball. And let's not forget they brought in Rafael Devers a year before that -- the lower levels are loaded with recent high-end international acquisitions, so this gamble makes a whole lot of sense.
The other option the Sox have is to trade the individual bonus slots. An individual team can only boost its own spending pool to 150 percent of their original amount, so the Red Sox could, hypothetically, make a trade with someone like the Astros and send them roughly $2 million in international spending slots since Houston's budget starts at just under $4.25 million. That's an extreme example, but it's an option -- maybe the Sox send Jackie Bradley Jr. and some international slots to the Padres at some point in exchange for a prospect once San Diego realizes they need some outfield defense. Maybe part of what helps the Sox pry Johnny Cueto from the Reds in June or July isn't another prospect, but it's another $1.5 million or so in international budget to work with.
These situations might never arise, but an opportunity can be created for the Sox to trade away this budget they are going to have a hard time utilizing otherwise. It's anyone's guess what value that has, but considering whatever it is the icing on a Moncada-shaped cake.