Yoan Moncada seems like the ideal target for the Red Sox. The phenom infielder from Cuba is the perfect combination of youth and talent for a team that often finds its desire for the very best at odds with the fear of aging stars inspired by the disastrous contracts that marked the late Epstein era. Even better for the Red Sox: his massive signing bonus wouldn't count against their major league payroll for purposes of calculating their luxury tax figure, and if that doesn't mean they can ignore the estimated $80 million it will cost to sign Moncada, it's not nearly so restrictive an expense as a major league contract would be.
And yet, for all that, Moncada is not likely to end up in a Red Sox uniform.
There's two reasons for this. Buster Olney brings up the first in his blog on ESPN:
The Red Sox like [Moncada], too, but rival executives believe that Boston's current surplus of Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rusney Castillo and Sandoval will ultimately affect their bid; Boston isn't desperate for Moncada in the way that other teams might be.
Make no mistake, if Moncada turns out to be as good as expected, the Red Sox will find a place for him to play. Fear of a logjam will not keep the Red Sox from pursuing top talent like Moncada. If nobody plays their way off the roster or winds up injured, then at the worst the Red Sox are looking at a pretty wide variety of trade options. Hardly a disaster.
But this is less a matter of the Red Sox being unwilling to spend on a player without an obvious role to fill, and more about just how far other teams are willing to go. The Red Sox have tussled financially with the biggest and best before, and if their success in those battles is perhaps limited, they certainly stand a fighting chance in just about any bidding war they're serious about.
When these teams are "desperate," however, as Olney says? And the Red Sox aren't? That's when it gets harder and harder to imagine. For the Yankees, a team full of players as expensive as they are old, Moncada is the injection of youth the organization has so long been in need of. The Dodgers, too, could very much use Moncada to act as the centerpiece of their new plan under Andrew Friedman. It's a bit silly to think that a financially irresponsible action like engaging in a bidding war might be the best way to take either franchise in a new direction, but there really is a difference between a lump-sum signing bonus and a nine-digit contract stretching out over the course of a decade.
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Even if the Red Sox are willing to meet the expected price for Moncada, there's nothing stopping the Yankees and Dodgers from jumping even higher. And when push comes to shove, the team without an obvious place to put Moncada will likely bow out before those with "desperate" needs.
With all that in mind, let's just add reason number two on top. In an interview with Jesse Sanchez on MLB.com, Moncada laid out his plan in no uncertain terms:
"My goal is to sign with a team soon, start training with them, and make it to the Major Leagues as fast as I can with whichever team that might be," Moncada said in Spanish to MLB.com in his first interview since arriving in the United States in late November. "I know I'm going to do the best I can for as long as I can in this sport."
Making it to the majors as fast as possible is the key here. Even if the Red Sox do decide to go toe-to-toe with Los Angeles and New York financially, there's no way they can justify doing so while offering Moncada the same speedy path to the majors. No, they won't let Moncada stagnate in Triple-A for two years because he's blocked by player A, B, or C. But at the same time, there will be no rush. The Red Sox generally err on the conservative side when it comes to player development, and if Moncada signed today it would not be at all surprising to see him make his Fenway debut sometime in September 2016.
For Moncada, that's not just a matter of patience, either, but money. His service clock won't start ticking until he's up in the major leagues, meaning every year in the minor leagues is another year before free agency arrives. Both the Dodgers and Yankees will do what they can to keep his clock stopped as long as possible, but they're not going to drop $80 million or more on a solution and not actually make any use of him.
The Red Sox aren't completely out of this fight just yet, and won't be until Moncada has signed on the dotted line elsewhere. Who knows, maybe he just has a fondness for chowder, apocalyptic snowfalls, and labyrinthine streets?But if it comes down to money and a quick path to the majors as one might expect, the Red Sox are at best a distant third in the race for Moncada.