Obsessing over Yoan Moncada yet?

No? Well, you should be. The 19-year-old Cuban is a potential franchise cornerstone, and the bidding for his services projects to be very crowded.

It’s not hard to find glowing scouting reports of Moncada. He’s a switch-hitting infielder with, in the words of FanGraphs‘ Kiley McDaniel, “a [Yasiel] Puig body” and “plus bat speed, plus raw power, 65-to-70 speed (6.6 in the 60), the feel and hands to stick in the infield and enough arm to play anywhere on the field.”

Oh, and he’s close to being major league-ready too. According to McDaniel, Moncada should only need a year or two in the minors.

Now you know why Moncada should be on your radar. But if you’re going to follow his situation closely, you need to know that it’s a little complicated.

As MLB.com reported in November, Moncada has already been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. But he still needs to be cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reported in late December that this hasn’t happened yet.

And even when Moncada is officially free to sign, he won’t be a traditional free agent.

Because Moncada is under 23 and has fewer than five years of professional experience, he’s subject to international signing rules. Teams that go over their allotted bonus pools are subject to penalties, including a 100-percent tax on overages and a restriction from signing any international prospect for more than $300,000 in the next two signing periods if a team goes over by 15 percent.

Which is going to happen with Moncada. The largest bonus pool of the current 2014-2015 signing period is around $5 million, and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports has reported that Moncada‘s deal could cost as much as $30-40 million. Due to the taxes, that would realistically mean spending $60-80 million on him.

Too much for an unproven amateur? Apparently not.

“He’s worth going way over your international spending pool, in my opinion,” one scouting director told MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo. “This game is about talent, and Moncada is the kind of talent worth the investment.”

Now that you’re all caught up on Moncada‘s situation, let’s get into his potential suitors. To that end, I have eight favorites and seven potential dark horses.


The Favorites

8. Chicago Cubs

It wasn’t surprising when Ben Badler of Baseball America reported the Cubs were among the teams that made a “significant showing” at Moncada‘s November showcase. Further, one National League exec told Joel Sherman of the New York Post the Cubs are “in as deep on [Moncada] as any team.”

And yet, Moncada would be superfluous in a system that already has Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara. But more importantly, Badler noted that a past bonus-pool violation bars the Cubs from spending more than $250,000 on an international prospect until the next signing window opens on July 2.

The Cubs could agree to a handshake deal with Moncada before then, but they’ll be at a disadvantage in what will be an intense bidding war.


7. Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays also had a notable presence at Moncada‘s showcase, which makes a lot of sense.

They have a need to replenish a farm system that B/R’s Mike Rosenbaum ranked No. 26 in MLB back in September. And because they’ve already exceeded their bonus pool in the current signing window, they’re already facing penalties in future signing windows. They might as well go all-in on Moncada.

Question is: Will the Rays be able to afford to stay in the bidding? Knowing how nutty it’s likely to get, the answer could be no.


6. Atlanta Braves

Of the teams that had the biggest presences at Moncada‘s showcase, Badler opined the Braves were the biggest surprise. But given their current situation, it makes sense that they would be circling Moncada.

It’s clear from their offseason activities that the Braves are more focused on being ready to win when they move into their new ballpark in 2017 than they are on winning in 2015. Moncada fits that timeline, and he would slide into a farm system that could use some impact talent.

But like with the Rays, you wonder if the bidding could get too rich for the Braves. They’ve cleared some big salaries this winter, but they still hold some pricey long-term contracts that could get in the way.


5. Detroit Tigers

Count the Tigers as another team that was well-represented at Moncada‘s showcase. They no doubt went to see if he looked like a potential savior for their lackluster farm system. Further on, he could work as a long-term solution for them at third base or shortstop.

What makes the Tigers a threat to come away with Moncada is their track record of being willing to spend big bucks on pieces they think can help them win. What makes it easy to see them walking away, however, is the reality that they’ve kept those efforts focused on veteran players. 

Would they make a change for Moncada? Perhaps not. The Tigers are in perpetual win-now mode, and he’s more of a win-a-little-later piece.


4. San Francisco Giants

Yup, the Giants are another team that had a notable showing at Moncada‘s showcase. And as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle can vouch, they’re not keeping their interest in him private:

Moncada works for the Giants on multiple levels. Their farm system is in need of impact talent, and they have a long-term need at third base now that Pablo Sandoval is gone. To boot, the money they had earmarked for Sandoval would be enough to cover Moncada‘s price.

But while the Giants should be aggressive in their pursuit of Moncada when he becomes available, they might not be able to outbid any of the next three teams.


3. Los Angeles Angels

We’ll now break from the familiar refrain and note that the Angels were not among the more notable presences at Moncada‘s showcase. That may be related to this report from Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com:

You can believe that if you like, but I wouldn’t.

The Angels desperately need impact prospects. They’re also hardly strapped for cash, and Badler noted that their $8 million deal with Cuban shortstop Roberto Baldoquin not only shows they’re willing to invest big in young Cuban talent but also puts them over the penalty threshold for the current signing period. 

That puts them in the same boat as the Rays, with the obvious difference being that the Angels have a lot more money to spend.


2. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox are yet another team that had a significant presence at Moncada‘s November showcase. Since they also had a significant presence at Rusney Castillo’s showcase before signing him to a record contract, this tweet from McDaniel comes as no surprise:

There’s no question the Red Sox can afford Moncada, and they’re another team that is already facing penalties for exceeding their bonus pool for the current window.

And yet, the Red Sox don’t really need Moncada. With Pablo Sandoval at third, Xander Bogaerts at short and Dustin Pedroia at second, the Red Sox don’t have an obvious home for him.

If the bidding gets too crazy, Boston could decide to leave good enough alone.


1. New York Yankees

The Yankees are another team that had a big presence at Moncada‘s showcase. No wonder, as he works for them as a potential long-term solution at shortstop or second base.

There’s that, and then there’s how they’ve already blown way past their bonus allotment. Like the Rays, Angels and Red Sox, they might as well bid heavy on Moncada with penalties already coming their way.

And these are the Yankees, by the way. Because they have more or less all the money, Moncada could definitely be their next big international grab if they really want him.

Unless, of course, there’s a dark horse out there with other ideas.


The Dark Horses

7. Toronto Blue Jays

As you’d expect for a team listed here, the Blue Jays have not been heavily linked to Moncada. But because general manager Alex Anthopoulos seems to love surprises and the Jays could use a long-term solution at second base, I can’t write them off as a possibility.

There is one complication, though. As McDaniel reported, the Jays are expected to sign Vladimir Guerrero Jr. when the next signing period opens:

Due to the penalty, signing Moncada for big bucks would nix that. The Blue Jays could be willing to make that sacrifice if they really like Moncada. But again, there haven’t been any real indications that they do.


6. Miami Marlins

Like with the Blue Jays, the Marlins haven’t been rumored as potential suitors for Moncada. Their reported interest in Yasmany Tomas, however, serves as a reminder that they should always be on the radar wherever Cuban talent is concerned. Rightfully so, given their locale.

Beyond that, the Marlins will soon have a need for a long-term solution at third base. Martin Prado is there now, but he’s only signed through 2016. 

The question is if the Marlins have the funds. With Giancarlo Stanton inked to an extension and, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, more extensions possibly on the way, they might not.


5. New York Mets

The Mets’ need for a shortstop who can actually, you know, do things has been well-documented. With Daniel Murphy headed for free agency after 2015, second base is also an area of need.

Moncada would be just the guy to fill either need down the line. And if the Mets go for him, they’ll have the stud young hitter they need to complement the awesome young starting rotation they’re building.

One problem, though: Whenever there’s a situation where the Mets should spend money, they tend to do the opposite.


4. Chicago White Sox

Where the Marlins can’t be counted out on Cuban talent because of their location, the White Sox can’t be counted out on Cuban talent because of their history.

This is, after all, a team that had recent scores with Alexei Ramirez and Jose Abreu. If they were to go for Moncada next, he would be part of an offseason haul that includes multiyear investments in David Robertson, Adam LaRoche, Melky Cabrera and Zach Duke.

The White Sox came out of nowhere to get those guys. Maybe they’ll do the same with Moncada.


3. Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies have finally begun a long-overdue rebuilding phase. And for a time, it seemed like a lock that its opening act would be signing Tomas to a long-term contract.

That didn’t pan out, but the Phillies’ interest in Tomas shows that they’re at least open to spending big on unproven Cuban talent. And if they manage to rid themselves of most or all of Cole Hamels’ contract in a trade, they’ll have more than enough money to last in the bidding for Moncada.

What I wonder about is how long the Phillies would stay in the bidding. They need young talent, but they don’t have a clear future home for Moncada. They have Maikel Franco at third and J.P. Crawford at short in the minors and, obviously, Chase Utley at second in the majors.


2. San Diego Padres

Unlike the other teams on this list, the Padres did have a presence at Moncada‘s showcase in November. Despite that, I don’t see anyone taking them seriously as contenders for his services.

That feels like a mistake given what we know about new Padres GM A.J. Preller by now. Moncada may well be his next big splash, as Preller suddenly needs to restock San Diego’s farm system and to deal with long-term holes at shortstop and third base.

The Padres have already stolen a lot of headlines this winter. Don’t be surprised if the Moncada sweepstakes is next.


1. Washington Nationals

The Nationals were not among the strong presences at Moncada‘s showcase in November. Also, Mike Rosenbaum recently acknowledged their track record of “limited spending” on international prospects.

But with Anthony Rendon moving to third base, the Nationals have a need for a long-term solution at second base. Though they’ll be getting Trea Turner from San Diego eventually, it wouldn’t hurt to have an alternative long-term solution at shortstop in case Ian Desmond walks as a free agent next winter.

As for Washington’s typical unwillingness to spend big on the international talent, that’s the beauty of it. If they’re barred from spending more than $300,000 on an international prospect in the next two signing windows after signing Moncada, oh well. The penalty will be there, but they’ll be in their element.

So keep an eye on the Nationals. If they want to steal Moncada, they might be able to do it.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.  

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