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Today opens a new period of international amateur free agent signings

The Red Sox generally do a good job here

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve talked a lot about the Red Sox farm system of late, largely because we are entering trade season and Boston doesn’t have a lot of intriguing chips to offer in negotiations as they try and improve their current roster. There are a lot of reasons for this and it’s not as dire as many make it out to be, but it’s clear that they need to restock the talent in the minors. They started that attempt in June with the amateur draft, taking Triston Casas and Nick Decker at the top of their class. The draft gets most of the focus for improving the farm system, but it’s not the only summer infusion of new talent into the organization. July 2 also marks an important date for teams to improve their minor-league systems.

This is the date that officially starts a new period for signing international amateur free agents. For the most part, this is when the top players in Latin America sign with major-league teams. The rules for this period started last year and put a hard cap on how much teams can spend in this process. In the past, teams could blow by their budgets then have to sit out a year or two. If you’ll recall, this is how the Red Sox signed Yoan Moncada to a massive signing bonus. They sat out the next year of international signings, then were forced to sit out again when it was found that they had violated rules by agreeing to illegal, under-the-table deals with agents of players they signed.

That led to a break in international talent in the organization, but when they have gotten a chance to participate in this market they’ve generally done well. On the major-league roster, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers were both major July 2 signings for the team. Moncada was another example. Last season, they were able to participate again and they made a splash. Their top signing was Daniel Flores, but he tragically passed away last winter. Danny Diaz, Antoni Flores and Nelfy Abreu were the other big signings, and all are currently playing in the Dominican Summer League.

As for this year, the Red Sox are once again connected to mostly position players. According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, their top target is Dominican outfielder Eduardo Lopez. There aren’t any loud tools here, but he by all accounts he seems to have a strong approach to the game and an all-around skillset. Badler expects him to sign for around $1.5 million. Badler also connects them to an outfielder from Panama named Eduardo Vaughan, who is expected to sign for $500,000, as well as a slew of Venezuelan players.

There are a couple of other key points to know about the international market before things kick off today. As I mentioned, teams have a hard cap in this market, but teams are given different pools. The Red Sox have $4,983,500 to spend. For now, at least. Unlike draft picks, teams can trade some of their international pool money and that has increasingly become a big chip in trade negotiations over the last few years.

The other point is that, while most of the big names are going to come off of the market almost immediately — although it is illegal, it is widely acknowledged that almost all of these deals are agreed upon before the market officially opens — there are always others to pop up as the year goes on. This signing period lasts through July 1, 2019. Shohei Ohtani and Moncada are famous examples of players who hit the market later in the year. This season, outfielder Victor Mesa out of Cuba is expected to be a late addition to the class. In fact, he’s likely the top player of the class and is projected to sign for something between $3 and $4 million. It’s unclear whether or not the Red Sox will be involved in this market.

The players signed during this period are almost all 16 or 17 years old — Mesa is 20, for what it’s worth — and won’t make an impact for a long time. That being said, having success on the international market goes a long way towards improving the farm system for Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox.