One of the many parts of the baseball calendar altered this past year by the COVID-19 pandemic was the international signing period, which typically starts on July 2. MLB and the Players Association agreed to push that start date back this year to January 15, which happens to be the day. Of course, most of these deals with now-16-year-old kids are agreed to years earlier, which is in and of itself a moral failing of the league that is an open secret year after year that has yet to be remedied. We’re focused here mostly on the talent being brought into the organization, mostly through Latin America, but it feels wrong to have that discussion without first at least mentioning the fact that all of this is, in many ways, just gross, for lack of a better word.
There’s no good way to transition from that reality to just talking about the players themselves, but that is of course part of the conversation. And while the methods by which all of this stuff tends to happen need to be changed, it is also true that this is a life-changing day for players across Latin America. For the Red Sox, they have had some great successes in the past in the international amateur market, with two of their best players currently — Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers — being J2 signings.
As of now, Baseball America reports deals (or likely deals) with the following players:
- Miguel Bleis, OF, Dominican Republic
- Enderso Lira, C, Venezuela
- Luis Ravelo, SS, Dominican Republic
- Alvaro Mejias, RHP, Venezuela
- Peyton Nunez, LHP, Dominican Republic
- Abrahan Liendo, SS, Venezuela
- Armando Sierra, OF, Dominican Republic
- Josue Castillo, SS, Dominican Republic
- Karim Ayubi, OF, Curacao
- Yevganni Reinita, SS, Curacao
- Yeziel Burnet, RHP, Curacao
The terms for most of these deals are unreported as of now, but it is worth noting before we get into the specifics for some of the top ones that the Red Sox have a hard cap of $5,348,100 to work with this year. In most seasons teams can trade for relatively small upgrades to their overall pool amount, but this year those types of trades are not permitted.
Bleis is the top name for the Red Sox in this class, ranked number 20 on Baseball America’s list of top international free agents for this year and number 21 by MLB Pipeline. According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, the expected bonus for Bleis is $1.5 million. This would represent the largest deal Boston has handed out to an international free agent since the summer of 2017 when they signed Daniel Flores (who has since sadly passed away) for $3.1 million and Danny Diaz for $1.6 million. Penalties for signing compensation-eligible free agents and surpassing the luxury tax threshold have lowered their bonus pool in recent years, which has played a part in the relatively smaller top bonuses. (h/t to Sox Prospects and their international signing tracker for the past bonus figures.)
Aside from the difference in bonus, though, Bleis does fit a pattern of the last few years at the top of the team’s international class. In the previous two signing periods the top signees have been Juan Chacon and Eduardo Lopez, respectively, both of whom are outfielders with some athletic upside. Bleis also fits that description, with Baseball America calling the 16-year-old one of the top athletes in the class. Similarly, MLB Pipeline describes him as one of the biggest and strongest prospects in the class. Given how young he is it’s hard to get too much detail about his play on the field, but paraphrasing from both of the reports linked above he seems to be a player who could grow into a power hitter with a solid approach and with the speed to make an impact on the bases as well as sticking in center field. Of course, there is a lot of development ahead before he would have any impact in the majors.
Bleis is the headliner here, but Lira and Ravelo are expected to be relatively big signings as well. Lira, whose bonus total is expected to be the 48th highest in the class per Baseball America, hasn’t had said bonus reported yet, though Sox Prospects indicates some reports saying around $900,000. BA describes Lira as someone who should be able to stick behind the plate and who has a solid hit tool gap-to-gap at the plate.
Ravelo, meanwhile, is getting a reported (by Jesse Sanchez) bonus of $525,000. The shortstop is not ranked by either Baseball America or MLB Pipeline, but BA does describe him as a slick-fielding shortstop who is making progress with the bat.
So just with those three top signings at this point, the Red Sox have spent somewhere just under $3 million of their allotted pool, and again that doesn’t include the other players they are expected to sign. It is worth keeping this in mind because while most of the top players agree to deals long before the official signing day, sometimes there are very good players available later for those who have money left. This year, Cuban outfielder Oscar Colás fits that bill. A 22-year-old who has also pitched professionally in Japan, Colás ranks second on MLB Pipeline’s rankings and is expected to work out for teams this month, per that MLB Pipeline writeup. It’s unclear at this time how must interest, if any, Boston is expected to show. He may also wait until next year to sign.
For more information on the three players highlighted here and others who have signed with Boston or are expected to soon, Ben Badler of BA has you covered.