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Boston's Top 5 international signings of all time

@IanMBrowne
January 13, 2021

To build championship teams, you need scouts who can find players from various countries. The Red Sox have proved this with their most recent title teams. The success of an international scouting department can be the difference between just another contender and being the last team standing. While in a

To build championship teams, you need scouts who can find players from various countries. The Red Sox have proved this with their most recent title teams.

The success of an international scouting department can be the difference between just another contender and being the last team standing.

While in a perfect world, a team identifies these players, develops them and sees them turn into stars, there’s a different way this can go. What if a stud international signing becomes the centerpiece of a trade that directly leads to a championship?

The Red Sox have executed both the “perfect world” scenario and the trade scenario with international players.

These are the Red Sox’s top 5 international prospects of all-time.

1. Xander Bogaerts
In 2009, the Red Sox signed a 16-year-old prospect from Aruba with a sweet right-handed swing and never regretted it. In ’13, Bogaerts was called up in the late stages of a pennant race and was unflappable. By the World Series, he had emerged as the starting third baseman. But that was just a temporary position. Bogaerts has always prided himself on being a shortstop, and he’s held down that position in Boston since ’14. Now one of the best hitters in the game, Bogaerts is signed through 2025. He collected a second World Series ring in ’18, and hopes to lead the Red Sox to more championships in the coming years.

2. Rafael Devers
The left-handed-hitting masher has a genuine love for the game. The Red Sox signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, and it didn’t take Devers long to roar through the farm system. By the '17 pennant race, you could find the 20-year-old Devers turning on a 102.8 mph Aroldis Chapman fastball for a dramatic home run at Yankee Stadium. Though Devers wasn’t as consistent as he wanted to be in the championship season of ’18, he came up with several big hits in the postseason. And in ’19, he was an absolute machine, putting together one of the best offensive seasons in Red Sox history.

3. Yoán Moncada
The Red Sox thought so highly of this Cuban infielder that they shattered the previous record for an international amateur player by inking him to a $31.5 signing bonus in February 2015. Though Moncada’s lone playing stint with the Red Sox didn’t go well as a September callup in ’16, he possessed enough value to be at the forefront of a blockbuster trade four months later. With Moncada as the key chip, the Red Sox were able to acquire an ace in his prime in Chris Sale from the White Sox. Helped by Sale’s mastery, the Red Sox won the 2018 World Series. In '19, Moncada displayed the talent that Boston scouts loved when he had a .915 OPS for Chicago.

4. Hanley Ramirez
While many of you probably remember Ramirez from his second stint with the Red Sox – when he signed as a free agent in 2015 – it is his first stint with the team that helped lead to a championship. The Red Sox signed the 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic in July 2000. Ramirez, as a youngster, was a gifted athlete. By 2005, the shortstop was the most touted prospect in Boston’s farm system. That was the year the Sox made the difficult choice to trade Ramirez in exchange for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. It was one of those trades that was a classic win-win. Beckett and Lowell were vital members of an ’07 World Series championship team in Boston. For the Marlins, Ramirez was the 2006 Rookie of the Year and the ’09 batting champ. In an added bonus, Ramirez got a championship ring with the Red Sox at the end of his career, though he was released in the second month of that ’18 season.

5. Daisuke Matsuzaka
This is one of the most complex signings in Red Sox history to evaluate. Was it a success? You be the judge. To get exclusive rights for the Japanese righty, the Red Sox submitted a blind posting fee of $51.1 million. On top of that, they signed him to a six-year, $52 million contract. Matsuzaka, who was nothing short of legendary in Japan, made a strong early impact for Boston. In his first two seasons, he was a combined 33-15. He chewed up 204 2/3 innings for a World Series championship team in ’07. Matsuzaka got the win in Game 7 of that year’s American League Championship Series and Game 3 of the World Series. And in ’08, for a team that went to Game 7 of the ALCS, Matsuzaka’s 2.90 ERA was seventh in the AL.

But the Red Sox got very little in the final four years of the contract as Matsuzaka struggled with both his health and his effectiveness, going 17-22 with a 5.53 ERA. But championship banners hang forever, and the Red Sox might not have won in ’07 without him.

Honorable mentions
Roger Moret, who signed out of high school from Puerto Rico, was an invaluable swing man for the Red Sox of the early to mid ‘70s. The righty went 13-2 in 1973 and 14-3 in the pennant-winning season of ’75. It is curious that late manager Darrell Johnson didn’t use him in higher-leverage situations in the ’75 World Series. … Japanese free agent Hideki Okajima signed with the Red Sox a couple of weeks before Matsuzaka’s deal became official. You can make the case that the lefty reliever was every bit as valuable as Dice-K to the ’07 champs. Okajima was a lockdown setup man, notching a 2.22 ERA in 66 outings during his rookie season. The next year, he was almost as effective, posting a 2.64 ERA in 64 games.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.