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July 1, 2016 at 1:58 PM

Reports: Red Sox receive 1-year IFA ban, 5 players made free agents

ESPN's Buster Olney (link and link) and Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan are reporting that Major League Baseball has issued harsh penalties upon the conclusion of their investigation into the organization's 2015 international free agent signing class. According to the reports, MLB has banned the Red Sox from signing international free agents in the 2016-2017 signing period that begins tomorrow, July 2, and has also declared five Venezuelan players signed by the organization during the 2015-16 period free agents. Passan's report states that the investigation found that the club worked around restrictions resulting from going over its international free agent bonus cap the previous signing period by signing multiple players from the same trainer in package deals and allowing the trainer to redistribute that money, with the most significant prospects receiving most of the bonus funds.

The five prospects who have been declared free agents, as named by Passan, are outfielders Albert Guaimaro and Simon Muzziotti, infielders Antonio Pineiro and Eduardo Torrealba, and right-handed pitcher Cesar Gonzalez. All five made their debuts this season in the Dominican Summer League. The five players will now become free agents eligible to sign with other clubs beginning on Saturday. Ben Badler of Baseball America has reported that the players will keep their $300,000 signing bonuses, and will be subject to the 2016-17 international bonus pools, with the caveat that the first $300,000 of the bonuses these players receive from other teams will not count against the new signing team's cap.

The Red Sox were limited to signing international amateur free agents to bonuses of $300,000 or less during the 2015-16 signing period as part of their penalty for exceeding their $1,881,700 bonus cap during the 2014-15 signing period, during which they signed Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada ($31.5 million), Venezuelan right-hander Anderson Espinoza ($1.8 million), and Dominican right-hander Christopher Acosta ($1.5 million) to significant signing bonuses.

Guaimaro and Muzziotti were the most highly regarded players in the Sox' international haul last year, ranked 15th and 24th, respectively on Baseball America's top international prospects list for the class. The pair were the primary center fielders for the Red Sox' two DSL clubs (DSL 2 and DSL 1, respectively) this season, with Guaimaro hitting .253/.305/.425 with 12 extra-base hits and four stolen bases in 22 games and Muzziotti hitting .317/.354/.383 in 17 games. The pair had made their debuts in the SoxProspects.com rankings just today, bowing at numbers 56 and 60, respectively.

Torrealba and Pineiro have both seen the majority of their playing time at shortstop this season, playing for separate DSL clubs just like Guaimaro and Muzziotti. Torrealba was hitting .247/.318/.247 in 22 games for DSL 1, while Pinero, who is stronger on defense, was hitting .198/.258/.198 in 21 games for DSL 2. Gonzalez was working in relief, although mostly in a piggyback role for DSL 1, and had a 1.42 ERA in 12 2/3 innings.

Badler reports that several 16-year-old players from Venezuela were expected to sign with Boston tomorrow, the most significant being outfielder Roimer Bolivar, the 31st-ranked player on the publication's top 50 international prospects list. Those players have now also essentially become free agents.

Executive Editor Chris Hatfield contributed to this post.