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Why Yoan Moncada projects to be a bargain for Red Sox

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At the surface, the $63 million price tag on Yoan Moncada may be daunting, but history suggests, however, that he will be a bargain.

MLB.com

The big question that came with Yoan Moncada was how much the 19-year-old would cost a team for his services. For the Red Sox, signing Moncada represented a significant financial investment given that the team had already exceeded the limit placed on bonus pools for international free agents (a system that was designed mostly for 16-year-old Dominican and Venezuelan players). Because he is under 23 years old, Moncada could only be lured to a team based on just a signing bonus (which de-incentivizes a player to fudge a player's age to be younger due to the smaller amount of guaranteed money).

So when the Red Sox signed Moncada on Monday, the $31.5 million bonus the team committed to Moncada actually represents a $63.5 million investment due to the 100 percent tax on the bonus: a whole lot of money for someone who has not played a game of professional baseball in the United States.

Again, Moncada is just 19 years old and, as a result, represents a player with as high a ceiling and as low a floor as any other Cuban player that has come over to the US in recent years. Given that Moncada hasn't played a competitive game in a year and still represents somewhat of a unknown, a financial investment of this magnitude is inherently risky for general manager Ben Cherington. In addition, what separates Moncada from a Yoenis Cespedes or Jose Abreu or even a Rusney Castillo is that he still needs seasoning in the minor leagues.

Moncada, aside from his major payday and the fact that he'll probably drive a nice sports car to his minor league games, is just like any other young player coming up through the farm system. Moncada will be a part of the standard salary scale once he makes his major league debut. The Red Sox will pay Moncada for three seasons at the major league minimum and three years in arbitration. This is where the Red Sox, if Moncada reaches even half of his potential, will make their money back.

Let's put it in this context: one win above replacement is currently worth around $6 million. For the Red Sox to make up their investment based on this number (and not factoring in inflation), they need Moncada to produce 1.75 WAR per season, or about that of a role player, while he's under team control. Keep in mind that one of the comparisons for Moncada is that of Robinson Cano, who posted 6.4 WAR last season.

But lets stay realistic. Moncada, against all odds, won't reach superstar level. A lot of prospect evaluators mentioned on Monday that Moncada immediately jumps to the top of the Red Sox organizational prospect rankings. Baseball America MLB Draft guru Hudson Belinsky said that Moncada leapfrogs over Blake Swihart in the team rankings.

"There is an argument for Swihart," Belinsky said, "but [Moncada] is absurd."

Belinsky said that if Moncada were a part of this year's MLB Draft class, he would be in play for the top overall pick.

"In terms of raw value, he's up there with Brendan Rodgers (the high school shortstop who is the leading candidate to be the top overall pick)," Belinsky said. "But it's hard to say because those draft salaries are capped and the international amateur market has inflated drastically, especially in Cuba."

So let's play with the idea that Moncada has the value of that of a top overall pick and is immediately a Top-10 prospect in all of baseball, as Baseball America's Ben Badler said on Twitter (Badler later added on The Adam Jones Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub that the only other prospect in baseball that can match Moncada tool for tool is Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins, the consensus top prospect in baseball prior to 2014).

Kevin Creagh and Steve DiMiceli did a great job of looking at the valuation of prospects and discovered that a Top-10 hitting prospect averaged around 15.6 WAR over team-controlled years, coming to a current day value of $93.6 million. That leaves a surplus value of around $30.6 million for the three years of major league minimum salary and three years of arbitration.

In other words, if Moncada reaches the average value of a Top-10 hitting prospect, the Red Sox received an absolute bargain. With this kind of potential value available on the market (and given how infrequently this level of talent is available to a team like the Red Sox), it's hard to imagine Cherington thought much about the impending roster crunch with the overflow of young infielders and outfielders.

moncada

When a team that rarely has picks near the top of the draft (although that has not really been the case the last couple of years for the Red Sox), the front office needs to take advantage of an opportunity to acquire a young player of such a high level of talent. Moncada already has above-average power (and well above-average guns), rating currently at 60 in power (on a 20-80 scale) with a 70 future grade in the attribute and an overall future 60-65 grade as a hitter according to one scout. Moncada's ability as a switch hitter only further emphasizes that value and his bat speed is "special" according to one scout.

Given that Moncada is more polished than the average top pick out of high school, has a wide array of tools that ranks amongst the best in the game and is relatively polished for his age. Moncada's advanced status for his age makes him safer than the average amateur out of the Caribbean (which really is boom-or-bust game). While there is certainly a chance that Moncada busts and is unable to do much of anything at the big league level, given that the Red Sox would make back their investment if Moncada became a 1.75 WAR through the six years of team control, there isn't as high a risk as the $63 million price tag might suggest.