In the first half of their his full season of professional baseball, 20 year old Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada has only recently started to put up the numbers (1.022 OPS in eight July games so far in Single A Greenville) the Red Sox expected from him when they signed him this winter to a $31.5 million bonus. Moncada’s signing as international free agent brought with it certain restrictions due to the size of the contract.
Since there is no actual international draft, the amount of money a team can spend is based on its position in the standings. A team pays a 100 percent tax when they exceed their total bonus pool (this season it was about $3.6 million) they are allocated each season. This is why when the Red Sox dropped all that cash in Moncada’s lap, they had to pay that huge tax for its largesse. The Red Sox are trusting that in a few years, Moncada can develop into the type of player worthy of that kind of investment. The trade of the international slot position was a result of the limited flexibility engendered by the Moncada signing.
Along with the draconian 100 percent tax, the Red Sox (along with four other teams the Diamondbacks, Yankees, Rays, and Angels), are restricted from signing any international free agents for more than $300 thousand for this year’s signing period (which began July 2) and next year’s period as well. Since their number 66 slot was worth $327 thousand, and the Washington Nationals share of the pool was low due to their success in the standings last year (2nd best record in the majors), it made perfect sense for the Red Sox to trade their slot to a team needing to boost its amount it can use to sign international free agents, since the higher level prospects are not going to sign for the $300 thousand the Red Sox are allowed to offer this year and next.
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The player the Red Sox acquired, six foot three inch righthander Ramses Rosario, is not among the Nationals ranked prospects according to the three major ranking outlets, MLB.com, Fangraphs, and Baseball Prospectus. The 19 year old Venezuelan native Rosario has pitched the last three seasons in the Dominican Summer League, with a career 4.00 ERA in 74.1 innings with two career saves. He walks about three per nine innings and strikes out about six in that span. He is off to a poor start this season with an eight ERA through 18 innings but last season had a 2.25 ERA in 36 innings.
The identity of Rosario is not the most important detail of this story. The odds are against Rosario contributing at the major league level. Once could look at Rosario in the same way as Moncada (he is five months younger), as a lottery ticket. If you see the Red Sox trade a higher slot position worth more money, the more likely it is that the player will be able to contribute, if not in the majors, in the high minors. At some point perhaps there will be an actual draft, but for now the international slotting system will be something the Red Sox will use to trade for longshot prospects that could pay off in the long run.
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