Last year, when Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada went on the auction block – what else could it be called – it was a catastrophe in some Yankees fans minds he signed with the Boston Red Sox.
The outrage on Twitter lasted for months. How could the Yankees pass up such a talent?
The answer, of course, is infielder Jorge Mateo. We have nothing against Moncada, who is bound to be an excellent player in Boston some day, but who, after a year in full-season baseball, is looking like a better business decision as far as Return on Investment (ROI) is concerned?
“Mateo is looking like the bargain of the century in this situation,” said a scout from a National League team. “Both have the chance to be game-changing types of players, but something is out of whack.”
What is “out of whack” is the Red Sox paid $31.5 million to sign Moncada, who, like Mateo, is 20, and were slapped with $31.5 million in luxury taxes for a contract expenditure if $63 million. Mateo, on the other hand, was signed by the Yankees for $250,000.
To quote those who see the Class A South Atlantic League, where Moncada played the entire season and Mateo played most of 2015 before a promotion to Class-A Advanced Tampa, the two are so close in talent and potential, despite bonuses that are separated by over $30 million.
The two are closely matched in speed and power potential. Mateo is rated the better fielder. Moncada benefited from the aura and mystery surrounding Cuban expatriates, while Mateo, a product of the Dominican Republic, had been watched for quite a while.
Mateo, in what some thought was a push and were surprised the Yankees bypassed Pulaski and Staten Island with him, basically took the SAL by storm, stealing 71 bases before bring promoted to Tampa and adding 11 more for a Minor League Baseball-leading 82. He batted .268 (98-for-365) at Charleston, then stunned more onlookers by hitting .321 (27-for-84) in 21 games at Tampa.
He is likely to return to Tampa to start 2016, then push his way to Double-A Trenton if he keeps this up. The Yankees also have another shortstop prospect, Tyler Wade, who struggled to hit in his brief 2015 time in the Eastern League, ticketed for the Thunder in 2016.
Moncada had a rough start in the SAL, but came on strong in the final two months to hit .278 (85-for-306) with Greenville. He showed a bit more power than Mateo, hitting eight homers. He stole 49 bases in 52 attempts and, according to Boston sources, will start 2016 with the Class-A Advanced Salem Red Sox in the Carolina League.
It will be fun when both of these players get to the majors. They will likely be compared for years while causing opponents headaches for an equal amount of time.
The Yankees worked out Moncada a few times, and were prepared to make him a legitimate offer. They also had Mateo in their back pockets, who has proven to be a complimentary player, so they passed. Boston, who also signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a 7-year, $60.4 million pact in 2014, reeled Moncada in with huge cost.
The investment on both is likely to pay off big-time in a few years. We don’t know which of the two will be the RBI leader of the pair but Mateo is certainly the ROI winner.