The Boston Red Sox may not be done with signing position players, as many experts thought. Instead of fixing their bullpen issues, the Red Sox seem to have put themselves in the proverbial hot stove with the New York Yankees, yet again. This time, the battle is general manager Ben Cherington’s to lead, all over a young, Cuban infielder.
Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reported that the Yankees and Red Sox are the ‘heavy favorites’ to sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada. NBCSports’ Craig Calcaterra also stated, “Moncada, who is still just 19, is considered a fantastic prospect. He’s expected to land a contract in the $30-40 million range. He’s still not eligible to be signed, however, as he has not received official clearance from the United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control and won’t be able to start negotiating with teams until he gets that clearance.”
In November 2014, Moncada worked out in front of over 60 scouts, and was very impressive to everyone there. “The 19-year-old Moncada was put through his paces, running a 60-yard dash, taking batting practice and infield at three positions, showing the kind of five-tool potential that has led scouts to compare him to fellow Cubans Jorge Soler and Yasiel Puig” (Johnathan Mayo, MLB.com).
The issue is not whether the Red Sox deem him talented, as much as it is a question of cost. It is not that the Red Sox would be scared to pay big money for a player. Just ask Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. However, do the Red Sox need to spend it? “Because Moncada is under 23 and has not played in a Cuban professional league for at least five seasons, he will be subjected to the international signing guidelines, meaning any bonus he receives will come from a team’s international bonus spending pool” (Mayo, MLB.com). Having already spent money on Sandoval to play third base, it would likely be a move to shortstop for the young man, if the Red Sox were to sign him.
It is also a question of penalties. Inquisitr.com reported that “because the Cuban teen is under 23, special international fee agent signing rules apply. The short version is that due to penalties and taxes, a projected $40 million deal could cost any team close to double that amount.” Would the Red Sox really want to spend all of that money on a player who may or may not pan out for the team, especially since a young Xander Bogaerts is still in Boston? Bogaerts will likely be the shortstop in 2015 and Brock Holt has also shown skill in the infield. Both players have proven that they can stay with the big club, while Moncada has not done so, yet. He would likely need to show his skill in the minors to begin the season, which means a whole bunch of money will be playing for affiliate teams, not Boston in 2015.
Is it really worth the risk? Maybe not. Yet, Rusney Castillo is prove of Cuban-Boston relations. Castillo had a .928 OPS, with two home runs and six RBIs in only 10 games, last season with the Red Sox. Who is to say the Cuban magic cannot strike twice? And it would also help with signing Moncada, as there would be another Cuban there with some experience (Castillo is 27 years old) to help him through the Americanizing transition. Whatever happens, it will be very interesting to see Ben Cherington’s answer to the question.