The Boston Red Sox are under investigation by Major League Baseball for possibly circumventing the rules on signing international players, sources told ESPN's Scott Lauber, confirming a Baseball America report.
The investigation is centered on the Red Sox's 2015 international signings of multiple Venezuelan players.
According to sources, MLB is looking into package deals in which Boston signed several international players from the same trainer. Although package deals are not outlawed by MLB, they can allow teams to get around international bonus pool rules. For example, a team can overpay a player exempt from bonus pools in order to get a bonus-pool player for less money. If bonus money is transferred, then the package deal runs afoul of MLB's rules.
Because the Red Sox surpassed the allotted money for international bonuses the previous year, they were not permitted to pay any such player more than $300,000 in bonus money during the 2015-16 signing period. Despite that restriction, the Red Sox were able to sign two players ranked in the top 30 among international prospects, Venezuelan outfielders Albert Guaimaro and Simon Muzziotti, for $300,000 bonuses each.
Current Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he is "not at liberty" to comment on the report. The alleged incidents predate Dombrowski's hiring in Boston.
As part of its investigation, the MLB has questioned the international players themselves, both of whom are under 18 years of age. One source told Baseball America that MLB's investigators "put a lot of pressure on [the prospects], like they were criminals."
However a person familiar with the investigation disputed that claim, telling ESPN's Lauber that the league isn't out to punish the players.
Though Baseball America reported the Red Sox were the only team under investigation, a source told Lauber that Boston is one of several organizations being investigated by MLB over possible violations of international signing rules. Penalties for any violations could include fines, suspensions and loss of future signing rights, although players aren't usually subject to punishment.
ESPN.com Red Sox reporter Scott Lauber contributed information to this report.