Monday, February 23, 2015

Sox Reportedly Spend Boatload of Cash to Land 19-year-old Yoan Moncada

So in reading that headline you are likely asking yourself three questions:
  1. Who the heck is Yoan Moncada?
  2. How much cash is "a boatload" of cash?
  3. Is this guy worth it?
To take the questions in order...

Who the heck is Yoan Moncada?

Yoan Moncada is a 19-year-old phenom out of Cuba. He plays 2B/3B right now but could project into a corner outfielder as well. Moncada is compared a lot to Yasiel Puig, the insanely-talented Dodgers outfielder who also has a rep for mentally checking out now and again in a game. Fortunately, the comparables for Moncada seem to be talent-related and not mental. Another name mentioned? Robinson Cano.

Moncada is considered by many to now be the top prospect in the majors. Yes, he is that good. Which is why the Dodgers and Yankees were also rumored to be going hard after him. Boston has basically landed the best player not on a major league roster. Which is no small feat. This also makes Boston a location for Cuban players. And that pipeline, with improving US/Cuban relations, will likely open up more in the years ahead. It's notable that Moncada didn't defect; he had the permission of the Cuban government to come to MLB.

How much cash is "a boatload" of cash?

A lot. A whole lot.

First, the signing bonus is $30M*. Not Daisuke money, but still a very significant investment in a player most people never heard of before today.

But the actual cost is even more. With changes to the international free agent market, teams are now allowed only a set amount to spend on player bonuses. If a team goes over that amount (which was around $2M for Boston this year), then there are an escalating series of penalties for that team. The maximum penalty (for when you go 15% or more over your bonus amount) is as follows: MLB taxes the overage at a rate of 100% and the club cannot sign any player to a bonus exceeding $300,000 during the following two international signing periods.

Boston had already exceeded the 15% overage in signing two other FA pitchers this off-season. Which means that $30M bonus is being taxed at 100%. So Moncada has actually cost the Red Sox $60M dollars. Or more than what Daisuke cost the Sox back in 2006.

This also has essentially taken the Sox out of the international market for the next two years. So if another Moncada comes along in that time, all they could offer is $300K.

But that is the logic behind this move; there isn't another Moncada coming any time soon. And Boston has loaded up in the international FA market this year to weather the next two years.

Is this guy worth it?

Let me put it this way...I am shocked the Yankees didn't pull this move and sign Moncada for as much money as it takes. Especially since they are in the same boat as the Sox. The Yankees blew past their signing bonus amount this year as well. So if you are already limited for the next two years and Moncada is there for the taking/buying...why aren't you making that play? Especially since you are building for the years ahead.

Everything about Moncada says he is the real deal. He has played in the Cuban majors and held his own. He is compared to insanely talented MLB players and is projected as the best prospect in all of baseball. Spending $60M on any prospect is a huge risk. But if there was one prospect to take that chance on, it's Moncada.

And the Yankees didn't/couldn't pull the trigger.

It's weird to see Boston flex their financial muscle like this and leave the Yankees (and Dodgers!!) behind. Perhaps this had something to do with it:

The Red Sox held a private workout for Moncada about two weeks ago. Among those in attendance was Red Sox Hall of Famer and Cuba native Luis Tiant.

"Tiant is a great ambassador for Boston," said Hastings, adding that Tiant and Moncada shared breakfast prior to the workout.

El Tiante, baby. Love love love him.

There are few avenues in MLB these days where having a boatload of cash is a huge advantage. The penalties and costs in signing free agents or international players has limited the impact of an open checkbook. But in these instances it can still give you a leg up on the opposition.

This is a huge risk for Boston. If Moncada doesn't work out then the Sox lose two years in the global free agent market and $60M they could have spent elsewhere. But if Moncada plays up to even 90% of the hype, it'll be worth every penny.


*Update: Later reports have put the bonus at $31.5M, which would make the total cost to Boston $63M.

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