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May 11, 2016 at 6:02 PM

Report: MLB investigating Red Sox for 2015 international signings

Major League Baseball has opened an investigation into the Red Sox international signings from Venezuela in 2015, according to Baseball America's Ben Badler. The focus of the investigation involves whether the Red Sox signed multiple players from the same trainer in "package deals" and whether such signings would have violated the international bonus pools that were implemented in 2012.

The Red Sox went over their allotted international bonus pool in 2014, signing a bumper crop of international amateurs that included Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada, Venezuelan right-hander Anderson Espinoza, and Dominican left-hander Christopher Acosta. As a result, the organization was not allowed to sign any international amateur for a bonus of greater than $300,000 over the next two signing periods. Operating under this restriction, 24 of the club's 33 reported international signings in the 2015 period were from Venezuela, with at least seven of them signing for the maximum of $300,000. As Badler points out, this included two players from Baseball America's top 30 international prospects--outfielders Albert Guaimaro and Simon Muzziotti, who ranked 15th and 24th, respectively.

Badler reports that MLB officials, including MLB Manager of Investigations Nelson Tejada, went to the Red Sox Dominican Academy last week and questioned a number of Venezuelan players. The questions were geared toward finding out whether the players signed as part of package deals, whether bonuses given to one player were then given to other players, and why players agreed to sign for more or less than would have been anticipated. Players were also asked for their bank information.

According to Badler, package deals are not explicitly against MLB rules and their use pre-dates the current bonus cap system. The commissioner's office told Badler that no team has ever been punished for signing players to package deals. Based on the questions reportedly being asked, the investigation is presumably instead focused on whether package deals were used to pay bonuses larger than $300,000 to individual players in circumvention of the rules.

The Red Sox have a strong track record of signing players out of Venezuela, particularly in recent years. In addition to Espinoza, other highly regarded prospects the Red Sox have recently signed out of Venezuela include twin brothers Luis Alexander and Luis Alejandro Basabe, who are teammates with Espinoza on the Low A Greenville Drive. To be clear, the investigation only covers the 2015 July 2 signing class.

At this time, the Red Sox are the only team known to be under investigation for signing players to package deals.

SoxProspects.com Executive Editor Chris Hatfield also contributed to this story.