All that stands between 19-year-old Cuban star Yoan Moncada and a payday that could exceed $30 to $40 million (with his new team paying twice that amount, once you factor in penalties) is an unblocking license from the U.S. Government, which could come at any time.
That’s because Moncada, who left Cuba (apparently with the government’s permission) in favor of Guatemala, where he recently worked out for scouts, how now been declared a free agent by MLB, according to Jesse Sanchez.
It’ll be very interesting to see how quickly Moncada gears up to sign. As the top international prospect in a very long time, Moncada will draw interest from virtually every team in baseball, but the timing of his signing will affect which teams actually have a shot at him. That’s because Moncada is subject to international signing restrictions, and teams like the Cubs and Rangers, because they overspent last year, are presently prohibited from signing any players for more than $250,000 until after June 2015. The Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Angels have already blown their budgets in this signing period, meaning that they’ve already planned to be limited in the next two IFA classes, and would seem to have the inside track on landing Moncada if he signs quickly.
Even though Moncada is now a free agent and could be unblocked soon, however, that doesn’t mean he has to sign quickly. As Ben Badler writes about the Moncada situation, it is possible for a team like the Cubs to negotiate with him and convince him to wait to sign until after June. If Moncada believes he can get the best deal from the Cubs, he may very well be content to wait. But you can see from a practical perspective why it would benefit the Cubs if he’s not cleared to sign for a little while, shrinking the period of time he would have to wait to sign. No one wants to wait longer than they have to to get life-changing money, and how much more would the Cubs have to agree to pay him to get him to wait six months? It might be more than you think.
So, if you’re hoping the Cubs are going to get a legitimate shot at Moncada in the 2015-16 IFA class – in which, Badler reports, and I can tell you I’ve heard, the Cubs plan to blow their budget once again – cross your fingers that the unblocking process takes a little while. If it doesn’t, we’ll see whether the Cubs (and/or the Rangers) will try to convince him to wait on signing for a while.