Yoan Moncada is set to be the next major Cuban free agent. He's seen more praise and has more upside than Yasmany Tomas and Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo, the last two Cuban imports of note. It's believed that, were he eligible for the 2015 draft, Moncada could be the first pick. He's also just 19 years old, so there is real potential for growth here. So, given all that, it's promising to finally see confirmation that the Red Sox held a private workout for Moncada in January.
The Rangers, Giants, Yankees, Padres, and Dodgers also held private workouts for Moncada, and you can probably see a theme there: money.* Moncada isn't going to cost a lot of it on the surface, as he'll likely command $40 million over the life of his contract -- that's just $6.7 million per year over six years and $5.7 million per over seven -- but as you can likely deduce given this sentence is ongoing, there is more to it than that.
*Before you object, please remember that this is the new, A.J. Preller led Padres with an ownership who actually has money and is willing to spend it. That and the whole Preller was hired because of his international scouting acumen thing -- they're a legit threat here.
Moncada, as he's still just 19, is subject to international spending limits. He's technically part of the 2014 July 2 class, and since he'll cost roughly $40 million, there isn't a team in baseball who can sign him without exceeding their budget to the point they are forced to pay a 100 percent tax to the league -- the Astros had the largest bonus pool available for this signing period, at just over $5 million. Whoever signs him will also give up the ability to sign players to bonuses of over $300,000 for the next two years. Of course, if you have Moncada, there is zero reason to care about that, since he's closer to ready, easier to project, and potentially better than anyone you would effectively give up on signing in the process.
Teams like the Red Sox and Yankees are in a great position, not only because they have the cash for Moncada and his tax, but also because they have already outspent their budget for this international signing period: if you're already getting penalized, you might as well make the most of it. That does present a danger if Moncada doesn't become available to sign by June 15, the end of the current signing period: the Sox, Yankees, and anyone else who went over budget won't be eligible to sign Moncada at that point, as $40 million is ever so slightly more than $300,000. Moncada coming to the United States legally was maybe confusing things a bit more than usual, but apparently it's only MLB standing in the way of his being cleared, according to Baseball America's Ben Badler. In essence, MLB changed what they found to be an acceptable way of entering their ranks in the last few years, and it's created a bottleneck, one that only they can fix. What kind of delay this will end up creating for Moncada is unknown, however, and Badler believes a team might have a shot at signing him if they just force the issue and challenge MLB on it.
The Sox have long said that they're happy to pay for players who only cost them money, and since they've already sacrificed their right to sign players to large international bonuses during the 2015 and 2016 signing periods, that's all Moncada will cost them. They have the cash to easily stuff a $6-7 million player in Double- or Triple-A until he's ready, and even though they're set at all the up-the-middle positions he can play, excess talent is a good problem to have, and also one they can afford. Every owner in baseball could afford the $40 million tax for going over their budget, but John Henry is one of the owners who actually would do it. The Red Sox are far from alone in the Moncada chase, but they are one of the favorites for a reason.