Red Sox: Yoan Moncada in right time and place

Jul 10, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; World infielder Yoan Moncada at bat in the first inning during the All Star Game futures baseball game at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; World infielder Yoan Moncada at bat in the first inning during the All Star Game futures baseball game at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

In another era the Red Sox Yoan Moncada’s bonus would be a plane ticket and Jason Groome could sign with any team.

The Red Sox management has dipped into the international market in a big way and in the process clearly demonstrated that someone or ones within their organization have the ethics of a python and the moral compass of a jackrabbit. This was not a questionable violation, but one in which management got caught in a crime of duplicity – possibly one of the most embarrassing moments in the team’s history. But why?

The action is clear to understand and one just needs to look at the contract of Yoan Moncada to see what players on the international market are capable of receiving. Sitting in Pawtucket with his dismal average is Rusney Castillo and a payroll hit of $11 million a year.

The Red Sox system is loaded with players that are classified as international free agents. Among their current top ten prospects, that means Moncada and Rafael Devers. Sox Prospects provides a nice summary of the cash doled out over the last few seasons and the reason is quite simple – you often get a star player after a bit of seasoning. Not enough money? Then you just corrupt yourself and the system.

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Major League Baseball has certain limits or slots for the traditional draft choice and in the international pool.  Andrew Benintendi became their first pick in 2015 and signed for close to $4 million – a far cry from Moncada’s $31 million and a penalty of an addition $31 million for exceeding their limit. Seems that Benintendi may get the small change compared to Moncada, but that is how the system now operates.

The bonus pool is listed and explained by Baseball America and my head is ready to explode when I attempt to decipher the system and its various in depth nuances on BA and elsewhere, but that is not – after five paragraphs – my intent. This is a how times have changed when looking at talent outside our boundaries.

The baseball draft was implemented in 1965 as trying to save baseball from itself and that comes with a term called “Bonus Babies.” Players were not drafted but were subjected to intense bidding by teams to find the next star and six-figure contracts were not unusual.

The BB (Bonus Babies) era started in 1947 and the first significant attempt at cost control was the implementation of a bonus rule and later a second attempt with another bonus rule and that is detailed by Hardball Times. The second attempt was 1953-1957 with some significant restrictions as also detailed in Hardball. Two groups, however, were given limited money – Blacks and Latino players.

The reasoning is quite simple since this was the 1950’s and a myriad of social issues, language barriers, cultural shock, limited economic opportunity and the fact that agents were virtually nonexistent allowed MLB scouts to offer cheap money that was certainly not commensurate with ability or projections. If you care to toss in “Racism” I would not object. Latino players were given a small stipend and shipped to the United States and placed in an alien situation. No translators, team specialists, money or any type of support network.

If Moncada was in the Cuba of the 1950’s he would have probably been scouted by Joe Cambia and possibly signed by the Washington Senators and would be fortunate if the money was in the rarefied range of $1,000. That was how it worked and it certainly created a caste system.

How the times have changed.

Baseball now has scouts searching ball fields throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. If baseball is being played a scout will be looking and evaluating. The restrictions on signing are far more lenient than what exists in the United States.

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Academies have been set up to enhance the development process and teams do everything possible to ensure a seamless transition to baseball in the States. The Red Sox even hired veteran infielder Carlos Mesa to aid Moncada’s transition to the United States. With the amount of money being spent every conceivable possibility is examined.

Baseball has come full circle as attempts are being made and have continually been made to prevent the nightmare of the bonus babies of 1953-57 and it is all fiscally driven. Limit the money and that is reflected in the bottom line on the corporate ledger.

The Red Sox were faced with a fiscal dilemma with draft choice Jason Groome since they were under the limitations placed on them to prevent bidding wars or tossing money on prospects willing to wait a year and hope a deep pockets team drafts them.

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The irony of it all is that at one time the Latino players were the ones short-changed and now it could be the American players. I am sure Benintendi would rather have Moncada’s paycheck, but both are millionaires – how times have changed.