It's official: 19-year-old Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada is a free agent, eligible to sign with any major league teams that can afford him according to Jeff Passan.
Moncada was expected to enter free agency soon, having received the go-ahead from the U.S. Government. With Major League Baseball tossing in a quick rules change to ease the process for Cuban prospects, the way is now completely clear. The only questions left are who will land Moncada, and at what price?
Despite his youth and relative inexperience, Moncada will cost more than most free agents. The expectation is that any team that wants to be a real competitor in the slugger's market will have to offer up somewhere in the vicinity of $40 million. And if that weren't expensive enough, given Moncada's age, he will count as part of the signing team's July 2 international signing class. With the bonus limit set around $5 million, Moncada will push the team he signs with far beyond the soft cap, leaving them to pay a 100% tax on their international spending for the year.
It's not just a matter of money, either. By going that far over the limit, a team loses their ability to sign any high-ticket international prospect for two full years, with no single prospect allowed to exceed a $300,000 bonus.
The good news for the Red Sox is that the damage is, to some extent, already done. They'e already exceeded the limit for this signing period, as have the Angels, Rays, Diamondbacks and Yankees (because it wouldn't be interesting if New York weren't involved). That makes this mostly a matter of money, and the Red Sox certainly have plenty of that, particularly when it won't be counted against their payroll for purposes of calculating their Collective Bargaining Tax figure.
Just because they have that money available doesn't mean they're willing to spend it, though. Between the actual signing bonus and the tax, we're looking at somewhere in the vicinity of $80 million for a player who is all of 19 years old. He's a legitimate five-tool player, and it shouldn't be hard to find a spot for him in the lineup when the time comes for him to make the jump to the Majors. But it can be tough to justify spending that much for any prospect who doesn't come with a money back guarantee.
For now, the Red Sox certainly at least seem serious in their interest. They've had as heavy a scouting presence as anyone at Moncada's workouts. The Cubs and Rangers are likely out of the mix, as Moncada would have to wait until June for either team to sign him which, in turn, would eliminate the teams already over this period's limit like the Red Sox and Yankees, which hardly seems like a wise strategy. Marc speculated earlier that one of the most threatening suitors in the Dodgers might also be out, given their desire for a broader rebuild of their farm system. We might even be looking at a good old fashioned Red Sox vs. Yankees fight.
For now, though, all we know is that the race is on, and the Red Sox are involved. Their farm system isn't desperate for help by any stretch of the imagination and has talent at the upper and lower levels alike. But with two heavily restricted years ahead of them, adding a marquee prospect like Moncada would more than make up for missing out on the best those international markets have to offer.