If ever one player, shrouded in a bit of mystery, has gotten Yankees fans excited it is 19-year-old Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada.
Literally thousands of tweets and countless blog pieces have been written on how the Yankees need to sign Moncada, who will turn 20 May 27. Not signing Moncada, according to an equal number of tweets and blog pieces, would result in dire consequences rivaling who knows what for the Bronx Bombers.
This corner, after sifting through a lot of information, adding a few conversations, agrees it makes sense for the Yankees to invest in this Cuban wunderkind. The club would certainly survive and prosper minus Moncada, but he is the key to a few things with the Yankees.
First of all, on the field, Moncada is ranked by what he accomplished in the Cuban Youth Leagues, where his performance and level of domination was rated equal with the accomplishments of Yasiel Puig and Jorge Soler.
Neither Puig nor Soler went right to the majors. Puig worked his way through the Dodgers system from Rookie Level to Double-A in 2012-13 before making his major-league debut June 3, 2013. Solar, except for 24 games with the Cubs late last season, progressed through five levels of their system over parts of three seasons before debuting in the majors Aug. 27, 2014.
So, if the Yankees sign Moncada, he will likely start at Class-A Advanced Tampa. How quickly he dominates one level would determine how quickly he advances to the next. It is thought he has not faced much, if any, top-level pitching. Second base is his most comfortable position, while he has also played shortstop, third base and center field.
Given the Yankees spent $15 million last July, signing 10 of the top International prospects when their cap was $2.2 million, they face a penalty if they sign Moncada. Puig signed a 7-year, $42 million deal, while Soler’s pact is a 9-year, $30 million arrangement. The Boston Red Sox signed Rusney Castillo, an older and more-established player, to a 7-year, $72.5 million contract. He may opt out after the 2019 season.
Most have placed Moncada’s multi-year contract value at $40-45 million. So it would cost the Yankees, with the 100 percent penalty, $80-90 million to sign him. The Yankees are not the only team interested in Moncada in this penalty situation. In addition, the Yankees and other teams over the International signing cap are limited to offering any International player $300,000 for the next two years.
Given the Yankees have used the International route for many key players and prospects, and they will be limited the next two years, it makes sense for the club to use its financial advantage and sign Moncada and put him in the mix with the other International power prospects – such as Juan DeLeon and Dermis Garcia. The Yankees are stuck in the International signing penalty box whether they sign Moncada or not.
Also, there is much talk of an International Draft, much like the annual Player Draft in June, that would limit how much each team could spend on a player after selection in order of worst record to best. There would be no more International free-agent bonanzas.
Given Moncada is a legitimate investment, and nothing is gained except money saved if the Yankees bypass him, it makes sense, both on and off the field, to add this 19-year-old with major potential to the organization. The Yankees have not gone after Cuban stars since the heydays of El Duque and Jose Contreras. There have been some Cuban players in the Yankees system that were much-lesser talents.
There have been reports stating the Yankees are in heavy on Moncada and others stating they would pass. Both DeLeon and Garcia, while younger than Moncada, are Dominican power prospects whose potential in that area is rated at Moncada’s level. Both, like Moncada, are infielders as well.
The Yankees envision Robert Refsnyder as their future second baseman and third baseman Chase Headley, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and left-fielder Brett Gardner are signed to multi-year contracts. In addition, Aaron Judge is a top power prospect with everything needed to be a fixture in right field as soon as mid-2016.
Yet, the changing International situation makes it fortuitous for the Yankees to sign Moncada. It’s their decision.