In the Summer of 2013, the Chicago Cubs spent big on international free agents at the outset of the 2013-14 IFA signing period. Very big. So big that they nabbed the top two prospects in the class, among many other big-timers, and thereafter faced the stiffest penalties for blowing their spending pool.
Those limitations include the inability to sign any player in the 2014-15 class (the one we’re in now) for more than $250,000. Because the big-timers get far more than that these days, the Cubs are not currently able sign any of the biggest names. But this year’s signing period ends June 15, 2015 (the next opens on July 2, after a short quiet period), and with it end those limitations.
Will the Cubs spend big in international free agency again as soon as they’re able? The early signs say yes. Kiley McDaniel reports that multiple scouts are connecting the Cubs to top IFA prospect Starling Heredia, with rumors that the young Dominican could command a deal with a $3.5 million signing bonus. Fun aside? Heredia was at this past Summer’s Under Armour Game at Wrigley Field, and he’s one of the few prospects who stood out immediately to me (he made the home run derby finale). As I read McDaniel’s piece, I really can’t believe that the young man I was watching back then was just 15 years old. He’s a beast.
Heredia, alone, might cause the Cubs to blow their budget next year – and, if they reach maximum penalty range, they’ll be prohibited from signing any player in the next two classes for more than $300,000 (the penalties changed this year)* – but is there an even bigger name the Cubs could pursue?
*(There’s always a chance that an international draft could finally be instituted in the interim, which could impact those penalties further.)
The biggest name in the international world right now – the prospecting side – is clearly Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, who just worked out for MLB teams in Guatemala yesterday. We’ve talked about Moncada before, and just how good he’s projected to be. The Cubs would absolutely be interested in the 19-year-old, but, because of their current restrictions, they would not be able to sign him unless he waits until after June 2015 to sign. Then again, if he believes he can get the best deal from the Cubs, he may very well decide to wait.
As for yesterday’s showcase, you can read about Moncada’s impressive performance here at BA, in which Ben Badler indicates that the Cubs were among a handful of teams that seemed to have the most significant presence (together with the usual suspects at big international showcases), something Sahadev Sharma has confirmed. Jonathan Mayo also wrote about the workout, and also indicated that the Cubs had a heavy presence. Clearly the Cubs believe there’s at least a chance that Moncada would wait to sign until after June, assuming he could get the right offer.
How much might the right offer be? Well, this is an entirely different ballgame from your typical teenage IFA. Jeff Passan hears that Moncada could command between $30 and $40 million (when the Cubs signed Eloy Jimenez last year as the top IFA on the market, he got $2.8 million). When you combine that with the overage penalties that would come, the price to sign Moncanda effectively doubles. That’s for a prospect. That’s how good teams believe Moncada will be.
Kiley McDaniel just wrote a long piece on the unusual circumstances of Moncada’s story – including the fact that it appears Cuba let him leave, rather than him having to defect (which calls into question the government’s involvement in his upcoming free agency – which is a must read. The Cubs come in for prominent mention, given the possibility that they’re looking to blow their budget again in 2015, and may be happy to splurge on Moncada (if the Cubs are going to throw their financial weight around in the coming years, this is the way to do it).