FORT MYERS, Fla. — Can’t add an ace? Add a king.
The Red Sox reportedly agreed to a contract Monday with Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. The 19-year-old immediately becomes the organization’s top prospect and gives Boston added flexibility in potential trades.
In short, the opportunity was too good to pass up despite the Red Sox reportedly shelling out $63 million for a relatively unknown quantity. Not only is Boston adding a potential star, but the team also is striking while the iron is hot given some of the variables at play.
By all accounts, Moncada is a stud, which obviously trumps everything when explaining such an investment. He’ll need some seasoning in the minors, but Moncada, who turns 20 in May, is a five-tool player with the potential to become the league’s best Cuban product. That’s saying something when you consider the recent influx of Cuban talent — Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, Aroldis Chapman, Rusney Castillo, etc. — across Major League Baseball.
Player comparisons are tricky, and finding a major leaguer comparable to Moncada is especially difficult because there are so few players in the world who possess his all-around skill set. Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano’s name has been tossed around when discussing Moncada’s potential, though, and Baseball America’s Ben Badler told NESN.com on Sunday that he doesn’t hate the comparison.
(Stop drooling, Red Sox fans.)
Will Moncada, a switch-hitter, eventually overtake Cano for the title of best second baseman in baseball? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The kid can’t even legally buy a drink in the United States. But Moncada’s ridiculously high ceiling — he might have been the top pick in the MLB draft if eligible — is enough to capture any team’s attention, especially those with pockets deep enough to play a $63 million hand.
As with anything, timing is everything. And this offseason marked the perfect time for the Red Sox to push all of their chips into the middle of the table. Moncada projects as a second baseman — third base and center field are two other potential destinations — and the Red Sox already have a pretty good one, but this is the type of deal you make now and figure out later. After all, who knows what can happen before Moncada is deemed major league-ready?
Moncada, unlike the aforementioned Cuban players, was subject to MLB’s international signing guidelines, meaning he couldn’t sign a major league contract because he is not yet 23 years old and did not play in a Cuban professional league for at least five seasons. The Red Sox already blew past their roughly $3 million international bonus pool by signing pitching prospects Christopher Acosta and Anderson Espinoza last July, which actually made a pursuit of Moncada even more palatable.
Exceeding the $3 million threshold meant the Red Sox would need to pay a 100 percent tax on any signing bonus committed to an international free agent this signing period. It’s significant in that a $31.5 million deal with Moncada became a $63 million investment, but it’s insignificant in that any team would have blown past its bonus pool in signing the Cuban prospect.
The key piece of information here is that the Red Sox after June 15 are not allowed to award a signing bonus of more than $300,000 to any player subject to MLB’s international guidelines over the next two years because they exceeded their bonus pool for 2014. In other words, there was plenty of incentive to go all-in this offseason because Boston won’t be a major player on the international market again until at least 2017.
The Red Sox clearly are focused on winning now, and Moncada could indirectly aid that effort. While the Red Sox might be content stockpiling young talent, the addition of Moncada means Boston, in theory, could be more aggressive in parting with other highly regarded prospects, perhaps to land an ace.
Does that mean Cole Hamels or Jordan Zimmermann is walking through that door because the Red Sox farm system just got that much deeper? Not necessarily. But signing Moncada creates even more possibilities as far as building potential trade packages.
The Moncada sweepstakes was intense, unique and fun. Now, the Red Sox are primed to reap the benefits of emerging victorious.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@DodgersNation