The Red Sox have added one of the top international amateur free agents available in advance of the July 2 signing period, getting 18-year-old shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin out of Taiwan for $2.05 million.
The deal was first reported in the Taiwanese press earlier this month and is now official. Lin will still have to complete an investigation from Major League Baseball, but that shouldn’t present a problem.
Though 5-foot-8, 155 pounds, Lin has drawn strong reviews from scouts for his lefthanded bat. Some scouts have projected him as an above-average hitter, capable of hitting better than .300, though he won’t offer much power, and his size is a concern even for scouts who liked him. He’s a 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale and an average fielder with an average arm. Some scouts have considered Lin the equivalent of a second-round draft pick.
Lin played at the World Junior Championship in 2010 in Thunder Bay, Canada, where he was named the tournament MVP after hitting .607/.656/.907 in 32 plate appearances over seven games, leading the tournament in all three categories. Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, Royals outfielder Bubba Starling, Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart and Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler were among the other notable players at the tournament.
Since Lin signed before July 2, his bonus will not count against Boston’s $2.9 million international bonus pool for 2012-13. His bonus is a record for a Taiwanese position player. South Korean righthander Byung-Hyun Kim, who signed with the Diamondbacks for $2.25 million in 1999, and Taiwanese righthander Chin-Hui Tsao, who signed with the Rockies for $2.2 million in 1999, are the only other Asian amateurs who have signed for more than Lin.
Lin had long been connected to the Red Sox, but he had also drawn interest from the Yankees and Indians, among others. The Yankees agreed to a $350,000 deal with Lin when he was 16 in 2010, but that deal was never consummated. Though the Yankees followed the proper protocol and MLB had named him a free agent, the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association issued a statement threatening to ban Lin from playing or coaching in Taiwan if he signed before graduating from high school, and the deal moved forward.
The Red Sox will now have several promising shortstops at the lower levels of their farm system. Xander Bogaerts may end up at third base, but he’s currently playing shortstop for high Class A Salem, with Jose Vinicio playing well a level below him at low Class A Greenville. The Red Sox also spent their first-round pick on Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero, while Raymel Flores is a defensive-oriented shortstop playing in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. He signed for $900,000 last year as Boston’s most expensive international free agent of 2011.