The Red Sox are set to call up Yoan Moncada on Friday, which is exciting for many because yay Yoan Moncada! and concerning for some because boo Yoan Moncada's service clock.
It's been a while since we dealt with this whole service clock issue for a player. The last time it came up in any major way was with Jackie Bradley Jr. back in 2013, with some fans worried about breaking camp with Bradley costing the team a seventh year of control in 2019. Of course, that didn't turn out to be an issue. Bradley wasn't ready, quickly went back down, and is actually under team control through the end of 2020 now.
That Bradley situation, really, is something of a lesson in why calling up Moncada now and starting his service clock "early" just isn't that big of a deal. There are two obvious outcomes from 2016, with each taking the team in a different direction for 2017:
1) Yoan Moncada is ready! If this happens, then the Red Sox get a full month of contribution from their top prospect at a position which has given them nothing for well over a month now. That's a significant plus in a close playoff race like this, and leaves the Sox with their starting third baseman for 2017 pretty well sorted out.
2) Yoan Moncada struggles. If this happens, then the Red Sox probably don't bring him to October, and likely look for short-term help to get them through the first couple months of 2017 until Moncada proves he's fixed the issues that cropped up in September.
In the first case, yes, the Red Sox lose that seventh year of service time that they could have had by leaving Moncada down in the minor leagues until 2017 was a few weeks old. Instead of being a free agent after the 2023 season, Moncada would only be theirs through the end of 2022. But in exchange, they've received an extra month of meaningful help at a position of need in a playoff push.
In the second case, Moncada's service clock ends up stopped long enough that they still get to hold onto him for 2023, and at least they can say they tried everything in 2016, whether it worked out or not. No regrets.
I'm sure there are some out there who would say that it's not worth sacrificing a full year of team control (minus two weeks) for a month of help (plus two weeks at the start of 2017) given that the Red Sox at least hope to be getting back into the habit of contending year in and year out. But even for that group it should be clear why the Red Sox are doing what they're doing. This is not something for nothing, and it's not even a major risk. If the Red Sox don't get anything out of Moncada right away, then they'll almost certainly be able to avoid losing that year of team control. If they do, then it was a reasonable sacrifice to make given the importance of the month to come.
And, at the end of the day, the information helps too. This way the Red Sox won't be blindsided by Moncada struggling early in 2017, or won't go out of their way to find infield help when they've already got a perfectly good answer ready to go. The Sox have a fair bit to lose by calling Moncada up so soon, but only if they actually gain by doing so.