For background on 19-year-old infield prospect Yoan Moncada, see here, here, and here. As his story progresses, I’ll probably stop feeding you the background each time I write about him, presuming that you’ll know in advance whom I’m talking about.
The short version is that the Cuban prospect is considered so good by the baseball community that there’s an expectation the team that signs him will have to pay upwards of $40 million – plus $40 million in IFA overage penalties – just to be in the conversation for landing him. Previously top IFA deals were in the $3 million to $4 million range. So, yeah. Moncada is in another world.
But, when it comes to the Chicago Cubs, landing Moncada is going to be tough. Because of their IFA spending binge in 2013/14, the Cubs cannot sign any players in this period (which runs through June 15, 2015, and the next period opens July 2) for more than $250,000. Thus, if Moncada were ready to sign today, the Cubs simply could not sign him.
Moncada is a free agent, but he has not yet been unblocked by the U.S. Government, which could take a little time (but no one expects it will take more than a few months, tops). If Moncada becomes available to sign in January or February, is it realistic to think he’d wait until July 2 to sign with the Cubs?
It may not seem like it, but check out this highly-interesting quote Joel Sherman got from an NL executive: “The Cubs used the fourth pick [in June’s draft] to pick a pure hitter [Kyle Schwarber] without a position at a time when they needed pitching badly, and they are in as deep on [19-year-old Cuban wunderkind] Yoan Moncada as any team. That is not by accident. They want to have so many hitters when nobody else has them. That is a planned-out choice.” (The article, by the way, is a great read on the Cubs’ approach to accumulating offense. It’s worth a read independent of the Moncada stuff.)
It’s just one stray quote, and the tenor was about the Cubs’ approach, generally, not necessarily a deep dive on Moncada, specifically. But, still. It’s a really interesting thing to hear.
Would other teams believe the Cubs were so heavily involved in Moncada if there wasn’t a real chance he could last until July 2? It’s not like the Cubs’ penalties are a secret. Yes, I suppose it’s possible that this is merely misinformation to drive up the price on the most likely pre-July bidders like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and Rays. But it’s also possible that the Cubs really are so interested in Moncada that they’re willing to offer him a price that will sufficiently entice him to wait to sign. Or, I suppose, maybe the expectation is that clearance from the U.S. Government will take longer than we’d previously thought.*
*(There is the weird business of Moncada being allowed to leave Cuba, rather than defect. Maybe the U.S. Government’s investigation in the situation before unblocking him will take a very long time, given that the implication of Moncada being allowed to leave is that the Cuban Government will somehow profit from his future contract – something the U.S. Government will not want to see happen.)
Because of his uniqueness and impact on the baseball landscape, I was already going to follow Moncada’s story closely. But maybe the Cubs have a chance on him yet.