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Red Sox expected to face sanctions for international signings

The league is about to bring the hammer down on the Red Sox for their questionable practices in international free agency.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It sounds like the "package deal" investigations are about to come to a head for the Red Sox, as Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the league "could penalize the Red Sox over their 2015 international signings before this year's signing period opens on Saturday."

When the story on the investigations first broke, there was some confusion over how exactly the Red Sox had violated the rules. Not in terms of the spirit of the thing. It was clear from the beginning that they were doing whatever they could to sign better prospects than they should have been able to under the restrictions they faced in the wake of the Yoan Moncada signing. But other teams are known to regularly engage in similar practices, and it's not even obvious where in the Collective Bargaining Agreement they're prohibited.

Through the miracle of "a helpful lawyer tweeting at me," however, it's become clear that this language from page 269 of the CBA... where the league has the Sox (ignore than June bit). The key lies in what constitutes a contract. In this case, while there may not be anything in writing that says the Red Sox will pay Player A and Player B, with Player B later paying Player A, the simple understanding that this will happen is enough to be considered a contract. And so, by not submitting that information for league approval (which it would never, ever receive), the Red Sox are in violation.

This, disconcertingly enough, leaves the penalties for the Red Sox up to the commissioner to decide with no clear guidelines in place to restrict him.

Here's what's almost certainly going to happen: Albert Guaimaro and Simon Muzziotti, the two top-30 international prospects the Sox seem to have broken the rules to sign, will be declared free agents. That sucks, but at the same time, it's nothing worse than the situation they should have been facing. They shouldn't have been able to sign those players given the restrictions on their bonus pool, so taking them away would certainly seem more than fair.

Beyond that, though? Who knows. the Red Sox will likely be hoping that any further restrictions imposed on the team will be limited to the signing period that starts tomorrow, July 2nd. The Sox are still under the restrictions from the Moncada signing for this one last year, so while further restrictions might completely sink that international class for them, that's not necessarily that great of a blow.

If, on the other hand, it extends into the future? At the very least it would delay the Red Sox' plans a year. It seems that, until an international draft is instituted, the Red Sox are committed to dumping as much money as they can into the market as often as they can. And for their purposes, in any good market, that means splurging once every three years and incurring the max penalty. If they can't do that until 2018 now, it'll be a bit of a blow.

Yes, it's a little annoying that the league seems to be singling out the Red Sox for a practice that the entire league engages in. Yes, it's especially annoying given recent sports history in this town. And yes, the league seems to have overstepped itself and general human decency in pursuing this case. But for all that, the Red Sox do seem to have actually earned this one, making it hard to really complain too much.