Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Friday, November 14, 2014

RED SOX SEEK BEST CUBAN PROSPECT IN DECADES



Yoan Moncada, a 19-year-old, switch-hitting middle-infielder from Cuba, is "the most intriguing free agent in the world," according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

Moncada is a greater sensation than either Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, or Yoenis Cespedes were when they left Cuba.

In fact, no Cuban player that age has "created so much hype among the Cuban baseball establishment since Omar Linares, the 1980s star widely regarded as the best talent ever from the island," writes Passan.

At 6-foot-2, 200-pounds, Moncada is a fast-twitch athletic machine that has big league scouts salivating.

At a showcase in Guatemala on Thursday, Moncada displayed excellent bat speed and plus raw power. He also showed his plus speed by running the 60-yard dash in around 6.6 seconds.

The Red Sox, who are believed to be among the front-runners for Moncada's services, had a big group at the showcase, led by vice president of player personnel Allard Baird.

In all, there were around 80-100 major league scouts on hand to see Moncada, including several top-level evaluators.

Moncada has played shortstop, second and third in Cuba, though scouts say he is less likely to play shortstop in pro ball.

The young Cuban is expected to fetch between $30 million and $40 million once he hits the open market.

Under baseball’s current collective-bargaining agreement, international free agents under 23 years old with fewer than five years’ experience in a professional league fall under the purview of MLB’s international bonus pool. This means that for every dollar a team goes beyond its allotted budget to sign international amateurs it must pay a 100 percent tax.

Houston has the highest allotted budget this season, at $4.94 million. The cost of Moncada is expected to greatly exceed that.

So, if a team offers Moncada $30 million, it will actually pay $60 million, since it will have to pay MLB an additional $30 million (100%) tax penalty for going over their allotted budget.

On top of that, if a team goes 15 percent beyond its pool, it cannot spend more than $300,000 on an international amateur for the next two signing periods.

The Red Sox have already exceeded their allotment by 15% (remember Rusney Castillo?). Going all in for Moncada would be a gamble. But if the Sox believe that he's better than any other player in the international pipeline for the next two years, they may throw caution to the wind and take that gamble.

MLB is trying to give the weakest teams a chance to compete for the best international free agents, not just the biggest spending, big market teams, such as the Red Sox. Yet, Boston may be willing to incur the above penalties to obtain a once-in-a-generation player.

Major League Baseball officially declared Moncada a free agent over the weekend. The next step before he can sign with any team is for the Office of Foreign Assets Control to unblock him. At that point the bidding will begin, and it is expected to be frenzied.

Moncada is viewed as the best amateur player available — better than any draft-eligible high school or college player in the country.

For that, the Red Sox may break the bank and pay heavy penalties.

If not, another team surely will.

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