Just as it was last week, one Yoan Moncada update seems to immediately spur several more. So it was with the latest from Kiley McDaniel and Jesse Sanchez, discussed earlier, and a striking article from Ben Badler that I’d not yet had time to discuss (thanks mostly to day-long internet issues).
You will have to read Badler’s piece for the particulars, because this is complicated stuff and my TL;DR version will only get you so far. The bare bones gist is that, technically, it is not the OFAC that is holding up Moncada’s eligibility to sign – it is a separate MLB requirement that Cuban players get a specific license from OFAC (rather than the mere general license he already has), which can take up to six months. This was part of a policy change at the MLB level after Yasiel Puig was cleared back in 2012 (remember how quickly he got clearance just before the new IFA rules kicked in? It was always a little strange).
Before you get too excited about the possibility, then, that Moncada won’t possibly be cleared until June (remember: the Cubs can’t actually sign him until July 2), note that it says only “up to” six months. And that’s only if Moncada actually needs to get the specific license from OFAC.
Then enters Jeff Passan, writing a piece that appears to be in response to the swirl that Badler’s piece stirred up. Passan’s article includes comments from MLB sources that they are seeking to clarify with OFAC what kind of unblocking license is required (so they don’t get in trouble if they sign a Cuban national), and are doing so this week. If they get clarity soon, Moncada could be cleared to sign within a matter of a couple weeks. The confusion seems to stem from recent changes to U.S. policy regarding what kind of license is required to do business with a Cuban national, and, until they get a definitive answer, MLB appears to be playing it safe and requiring Cuban players to go through the more thorough process. But, as Passan says, that could change very soon, and, with it, Moncada’s status.
There is clearly some strange stuff going on behind the scenes on this – and I’m not even talking about the U.S./Cuba relations part, which is its own flavor of strange – and I’m not even going to try and make heads or tails of it.
Instead, I’ll just go with this: it was always expected that Moncada would probably be free and clear to sign by some point in early 2015. Further, it was always expected that, no matter how much the Cubs wanted Moncada, if he were cleared to sign early in 2015, it was going to be very difficult for the Cubs to sign him. Thus, impending free agency is bad news for the Cubs.
The good news, such as it is, is that Passan lists four favorites to sign Moncada: the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Dodgers, and the Cubs.
That glimmer of hope, I must confess, doesn’t comfort me much right now. While I think it’s cool that the Cubs are listed with the three most obvious suitors, and I do think the Cubs are very interested, there is no incentive whatsoever for Moncada’s camp not to keep the Cubs in the running right until the end. Since Moncada would have to wait until July 2 to sign with the Cubs, forestalling not only his career but also his guarantee of riches, the Cubs would almost certainly have to come in with an over-the-top offer to get him to wait. And if you’re Moncada’s reps, that’s a dream scenario, because then you’re virtually guaranteed of having a “better” offer that you can bring back to the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers to try and shop.
If Moncada does, indeed, get unblocked in the next couple weeks, my hopes that the Cubs can realistically have a shot at him (let alone sign him) will drop significantly. I’ll still be very interested to see how things proceed from there – and, hey, maybe I underestimate the amount the Cubs are willing to go over the top, or I overestimate how much they would need to do so in order to get Moncada – but I think Moncada winds up with one of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers. Not only are they the three deepest pockets, but the first two are already facing a two-year limit on spending in international free agency. Moncada is their last shot at a big name international prospect for two years. They will go nuts for him.
(Of course, the counter to that is that the Cubs are reportedly looking to blow out their budget in the next IFA cycle, so getting Moncada in that cycle should be just as attractive to the Cubs as it is to the Yankees and Red Sox. But my counter to that counter is, “Yes, but the Cubs have to convince Moncada to wait until July. The Yankees and Red Sox don’t.”)
I suppose your best bet here is to keep on hoping for governmental/MLB delay and confusion. Maybe just, like, two more months or so. Three or four would be great.