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Red Sox agreement with Dominican prospect Simon Mercedes represents sea change

03.16.12 at 9:52 pm ET

In its own right, the Red Sox‘ agreement pending MLB’s background investigation with right-hander Simon Mercedes to a signing bonus of $800,000 (first reported by Ben Badler of Baseball America and confirmed by a major league source) is noteworthy because it represents the addition of a high-ceiling power arm into the Sox system.

Mercedes has what one evaluator called an “XXL power frame” at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. He features an above-average fastball that registers in the low- to mid-90s as well as what the evaluator called an above-average curveball. He will enter the Sox system as a starter, though for him to remain there, it will require some development of his repertoire. At the least, however, he has the makings of a power arm out of the bullpen.

The Sox viewed him as one of the top eligible arms available. He represented one of the last available opportunities for the Sox to flex some financial muscle in the international market, given the coming restrictions on international amateur spending in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, something that will change the way business is done internationally starting on July 2.

So, the signing of Mercedes is notable for the fact that the Sox added what they hope is a high-ceiling prospect. However, it is noteworthy for other reasons as well that underscore that the Sox’ approach to the international amateur market has changed with the change from former VP of International Scouting Craig Shipley to new director of international scouting Eddie Romero.

Simply put, Shipley never would have signed Mercedes. He refused to sign players who lied about their documentation. Mercedes appears to have done just that, as Badler reported that he changed from being a 16-year-old named Jeffrey Tapia to an 18-year-old (with a listed birth date of Feb. 27, 1992) by his current appellation of Simon Mercedes. He agreed to a deal with the Giants for a $400,000 signing bonus in early 2011, but the Major League Baseball background investigation into Mercedes resulted in a one-year declaration of his ineligibility to sign by MLB, according to Badler.

Mercedes’ case is in some ways reminiscent of that of Carlos Martinez, a rocket-armed right-hander in the Cardinals system. Martinez originally signed with the Sox for less than $200,000 in 2009 under the name Carlos Matias. However, the agreement was nullified when MLB’s background investigation revealed discrepancies in documentation.

Though Martinez’s stuff played up during his one-year period of signing ineligibility, making him one of the top international free agent prospects in the 2010 class, the Sox refused to consider signing him anew. The Cardinals grabbed Martinez for a $1.5 million bonus, and the 20-year-old now has one of the top arms in the minors, with a fastball that reaches triple digits.

While the rationale for Shipley’s refusal to work with players who falsified documentation was understandable, there were some in the organization who believed that the Red Sox were too inflexible and taking themselves out of the market for some top talents in Latin America. Now, it appears that the Sox are reconsidering how they approach such players, in a fashion that made an agreement with a prospect like Mercedes possible.

The deal also is believed to be the largest commitment by the Sox to an amateur Latin American pitcher in the last decade, something that is also noteworthy as the Sox proceed aggressively in international waters in the months leading up to the onset of the new rules this July. The Sox also signed left-hander Daniel McGrath out of Australia for $400,000 last month.

Read More: carlos martinez, carlos matias, craig shipley, eddie romero
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