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Red Sox expected to sign a pair of shortstops in international market

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Today is the first day of the signing period.

Texas Rangers v Boston Red Sox

Although the start of a new international signing period, when teams’ signing bonus pools are reset and most of the top players available end up signing, is typically in early July, COVID has caused the timeline to shift, and for a second straight year it is instead happening in January. This year, it starts today on January 15, with the Boston Red Sox having $5,179,700 to spend this year. That is spread out for the entire year, with the period ending on December 15, but most top players have deals already agreed to (more on that in a second). Teams can also add and subtract money from their bonus pool via trade.

Before we get to the players the Red Sox are expected to sign, I feel obligated to mention the exploitative system under which all of this occurs. These international signings almost all come from poor communities in Latin America, and many of them have deals agreed to by the time they are 14 years old. It is a, frankly, gross practice in which a significant portion of the money goes to the player’s trainer rather than the player and family, and literal children are being signed and trained for the purposes of adding talent into the league. As a generally pro-labor fan the idea of an international draft doesn’t sit all that well with me either, but there’s no doubt that fixing this exploitative process should be at the top of the list for the next CBA, even though we know it probably won’t be.

All of that said, it is unfortunately still the system under which all of this is happening, so we must talk about the players the Red Sox appear set to sign. As I said, most of these deals are done ahead of time so these players signing with the organization today have probably had a tentative deal set up for at least a year.

There are two shortstops who clearly stand out from the Red Sox class this year, which is a change of pace after targeting outfielders with their highest bonuses in each of the last three seasons. There are some disagreements as to who the top player is, but we’ll start with Fraymi de Leon, a shortstop from the Dominican Republic. He ranks number 32 on Baseball America’s rankings and 50th on MLB Pipeline’s. de Leon is described by BA as one of the best defensive shortstops in the entire class, while his offense, per MLB Pipeline, is gap-to-gap right now with the hope of adding more power as he matures.

The other big name the Red Sox are adding to the organization is also a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic with Freili Encarnacion. He ranks 37th on BA’s list, but is way up at 19 on MLB Pipeline’s rankings. Unlike de Leon, it is not as clear whether or not Encarnacion will stick up the middle, with the implication by both sites seeming to be that a move to third base could very well be in his future. That said, on offense the upside is much higher with MLB Pipeline calling him one of the best hitters in the class with true plus power.

Finally, the Red Sox also appear set to add one of the top catchers on the market in Johanfran Garcia from Venezuela. He is not ranked on Baseball America’s top 50, but is on MLB Pipeline’s at number 34. They compare his build to Yadier Molina, though note that, while his defense is fine at the moment, his bat is currently ahead of the glove.

In addition to these three, Baseball America also has the Red Sox signing another Dominican shortstop in Jancel Santana along with a Dominican outfielder in Nataenal Yuten. There is not much information available I can find on either of those two. Figures for any of the signing bonuses are not yet known.