Just maybe, the Red Sox can derive an advantage out of an embarrassment.
Starting July 2, the Sox can again play in the international sandbox, a chance to add some talent to a farm system president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has weakened while building the big-league roster.
The Sox thought they were singled out last year when MLB punished them for transgressions in the international amateur market. The league took away five players signed in the 2015-16 period, making them free agents, and prevented the Sox from signing players in the 2016-17 period.
No heads rolled because of the league’s investigation. Eddie Romero, who ran the international department then and now, was promoted over the winter to assistant general manager.
"Well our staff, our international staff is so dedicated, and they are so hard working," Romero said this spring when asked how the team can rebound. "You [have to be] proud of being involved with people like this. Because they just saw it as another challenge to outwork the competition, to start working on the next year’s group of players, and they did and they’ve done an unbelievable job of putting us in the right position to see the right guys in all markets.
"It’s not just Dominican or Venezuela. We’ve been hammering a ton of countries, a ton of newer markets. And they came out firing. They were excited that there weren’t going to be any changes and...they really got after it."
Romero declined to specify the emerging markets the Sox were poking around in, citing potential competitive advantage.
The crime a year ago? The Sox were not supposed to give out bonuses of more than $300,000 to any individual player, but in effect did. This year, the Sox have been allotted $4.75 million and don't face any such restriction.
Per Baseball America’s Ben Badler, the Red Sox are expected to land two top-10 international amateurs: catcher Daniel Flores and shortstop Danny Diaz, both from Venezuela.
Flores could be an elite big-league defender and has had high bonus demands. MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez ranked Flores as the second best prospect in this year's crop. Sanchez and Badler both expect Diaz and Flores to land with the Sox.
Wrote Badler: "Given Boston’s expected international activity, the Red Sox will probably be trading up for more international bonus pool money once they’re allowed to make a trade beginning on July 2."
Diaz "has advanced feel to hit for his age, uses the middle of the field and hits the ball hard now with a chance to develop plus power," and is likely bound for third base, per Badler.
In an interview in spring training, Romero called the punishment a learning process.
"You learn from it and you move on," Romero said. "You just say, you know, you’re going to be better going forward. That’s really hard.
"We changed some scouts who had nothing to do with the investigation. But you know just, some minor moves. For the most part, no, nothing changed."
Adrian Lorenzo was promoted from international scouting coordinator to assistant director. James Kang, an international scout for Mexico in 2016, moved up to international scouting assistant.