Red Sox Free Agent Rumors: Yoan Moncada


“We don’t believe in long term rebuilding projects.”

All signs continue to point to the Red Sox putting all of their effort into putting together an immediately competitive team this winter, with this latest quote from Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino. Lucchino also said, “We believe in retooling, refocusing, and reloading. But we’re not rebuilding – that connotes something that is long and slow.”

Since becoming General Manager of the Red Sox, Ben Cherington has cautiously embraced that approach. Cherington, so far, has been careful to add pieces that will contribute right away while not hindering the team’s long term flexibility. No Carl Crawford or Adrian Gonzalez contracts have been handed out. This approach worked quite well in 2013, leading to a third world series victory in just a decade. This approach did not work quite as well in 2014.

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The question the team faces this winter, is whether or not they can put together a playoff caliber team without making risky commitments to players like Jon Lester and Pablo Sandoval. Early indications are that the team is going to be willing to take these risks if it means avoiding a repeat of 2014’s 71-win effort. Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston has reported in the last week that the Red Sox are “all-in” on Sandoval, and also that they may in fact be willing to offer Lester that potentially pivotal sixth year at a $20 million AAV.

Both of these moves would undoubtedly help Manager John Farrell lead the Red Sox back to the postseason, but could make things tricky down the line when the two players start to regress. The solution? Building the best farm system possible in the coming years to provide protection against this regression. That’s why Ben Cherington’s biggest free agent target this winter should not be Lester or Sandoval.

The primary focus this winter should instead be on 19-year-old Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada. The ink on Rusney Castillo‘s contract is still drying, and Yasmani Tomas has not even signed (although he could at any minute now, and actually worked out for the Red Sox recently despite the lack of a clear need for him), but talent evaluators are already turning their attention to the next big thing.

At just 19, Moncada will not contribute to the immediate success of the team, but if  “There is a commitment to win,” as Larry Lucchino said, the ownership group should give Ben Cherington the green light to outbid the opposition and sign the star prospect.

Moncada worked out in Guatemala this week and left the 60-70 scouts in attendance impressed. The scrutinizing eyes on him did not shake the infielder who presents as a 5 tool prospect. writer Jonathan Mayo collected some opinions from the scouts in attendance but the one opinion that stood out from an unnamed scouting director was “He’s worth going way over your international spending pool”.

Sep 19, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) looks on during the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

But, given that the Red Sox have already exceeded their international bonus pool by 15%, they will be unable to sign Moncada unless he makes it into this signing period. If he is posted during the next signing period in July, the team will only be able to offer him a contract of $300 thousand, which will not even scratch the surface of the $30 million some are predicting. This only further adds further incentive to the Red Sox signing Moncada if he is ultimately made available.

This penalty will effectively cripple their ability to bring in international talent in the next two signing periods, and given that they have already incurred the penalty for this period, it would be in the teams best interest to just keep spending until their restrictions set in. Moncada likely will not stick at shortstop in the major leagues, but has the speed and arm to be a great defender elsewhere on the diamond (3rd base…?) and the ability to make contact and drive the ball to be a star hitter.

Sep 18, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington (left) talks with Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington (right) on the field before the Pirates host the Red Sox at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

At just 19, Moncada will not contribute to the immediate success of the team, but if  “There is a commitment to win,” as Larry Lucchino said, the ownership group should give Ben Cherington the green light to outbid the opposition and sign the star prospect.

Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote that the Red Sox, along with the Atlanta Braves, had one of the largest showings at the showcase in Guatemala so it is not a stretch to think the team is one of the early favorites. Coupled with their past activity on the international market, they may even be the front-runner.

Moncada is the type of game changing talent that the Red Sox will need if they are ultimately going to risk long term deals with Sandoval and Lester. This is the foundation of the reason that the Angels are able to commit so much money to players like Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols; with phenom Mike Trout locked up on a long term extension, they know they will have the talent to be competitive even when Hamilton and Pujols begin to slow.

A lineup featuring Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, fellow Cuban Rusney Castillo, Moncada, and emerging star prospect Rafael Devers, would still be devastating five years from now, even if the Red Sox are paying $17-$20 million for a Kung-Fu Panda who is far from the player he is today.

It would be similarly helpful to be able to hold onto young pitchers like Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Trey Ball to shoulder the weight that Lester could no longer carry if he were to be extended into his age-37 season. Cherington can have his cake and eat it too; as long as the team continues to make moves with the five year window held to a similar priority as the coming season, the Boston Red Sox will be back to the days of being a perennial playoff team like they were in the last decade.