clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The competition for Yoan Moncada and what the Yankees need to do to get him

Yoan Moncada would be the icing on a pound cake off-season for the Yankees. Can they separate themselves from the other teams who want him?

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

19-year-old super talent Yoan Moncada is within a couple of weeks of choosing a team according to his pseudo-agent David Hastings via the L.A. Times' Dylan Hernandez. Once signed, Moncada will instantly vault inside the Top 15 on prospect lists by evaluators like Ben Badler, Kiley McDaniel and Jim Callis, and given his age and upside, he could end up the most impactful free agent signed this off-season.

The Yankees are widely believed to be chasing Moncada. They've attended his open events and worked him out privately, and don't seem deterred by a price tag estimated at $30-$50 million, which will balloon to twice that once MLB's 100 percent international bonus overage penalty is factored in. But unfortunately, they aren't alone. Most of baseball has shown at least some level of interest in Moncada and those most often cited as aggressive bidders are the biggest of the big financial guns. Moncada's decision will probably boil down mostly to guaranteed dollars, but if the money is close, here's a look at the other unique benefits that teams can offer him, and where the Yankees fit in.


If you're setting odds on where Moncada will go, the safe money probably lands in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers have been the most proactive team in tapping the recent inflow of Cuban talent. If Moncada asks "can you make me a star?", L.A., needs only to point to Yasiel Puig, who they threw $42 million at when no one else would and had him manning their big league outfield by age 22 after only 63 games in the minors. It's a reach to assume that players necessarily care about sharing a clubhouse with guys from their home country, but the Dodgers' experience handling assets from a similar background is something Moncada and Hastings may look fondly on.

Unnamed general managers told ESPN's Buster Olney that they consider the Dodgers favorites to land Moncada, but there are some reasons to hope they won't lead the charge. Last winter they spent a combined $53 million on two other Cuban middle infielders, Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarruena, and signing Moncada would lessen the likelihood of getting anything out of that pair. While L.A.'s up-the-middle duo of Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick will both be free agents post-2015, their current top prospect, Corey Seager, plays short and the massive contracts of Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier along with the presence of Puig and number two prospect Joc Pederson make it unlikely that Moncada would find a home in the outfield. Unlike the Yankees and Red Sox, the Dodgers haven't yet exceeded their international spending allotment for 2014-15. Signing Moncada wouldn't just push them into the penalty zone - it would take them out of the market for top under-23 foreign talent for the next two years. Their reward for that would be less substantial since they haven't already inked half the teenage population of Latin America as the Yankees have.

Red Sox

If the Dodgers aren't Moncada's most dangerous suitor, the battle may come down to a good old fashioned Yankees-Red Sox bidding war. New York is just about undefeated in those contests - they've come away with Bernie Williams, Mike Mussina, Mark Teixeira and Jose Contreras, among others, as the spoils - but Boston's been arguably the more successful franchise of late, and like Los Angeles, they've already made inroads into the Cuban market by signing Rusney Castillo last year for $72.5 million. It remains to be seen how it'll play in negotiations, but the Yankees haven't signed and developed a Cuban star since El Duque. Contreras, who arrived with unreasonable expectations and was promptly booed and traded when he didn't meet them, is probably not a story they'll want to highlight.

Moncada has said he'd like to reach the majors quickly and Boston might not be the best place to do that. At second base, he'd be blocked by Dustin Pedroia, who isn't going anywhere. Xander Bogaerts struggled at short last year, but he's a former top two prospect and he'll get a longer leash. Third base and left field are locked down by Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, on five and four-year contracts respectively. Castillo is expected to start in center for the next few years and there are other young options in the outfield with Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Mookie Betts vying for another look. Moncada may well be capable of outplaying all of the above but it doesn't look like an ideal situation for a speedy ascent.

The field

The Moncada victor could be almost anyone. The Cubs and Rangers are ineligible to spend big internationally thanks to pool overages in recent years and many teams don't have the cash on hand to foot the tax on Moncada's bonus, which must be paid to MLB up front. Still, there's no shortage of possibilities. The Tigers and Angels have money and poorly ranked farm systems that could use a jolt. The Diamondbacks have already grabbed two major Cuban free agents in Yasmani Tomas and Yoan Lopez and could be seeking a third. The Padres and Giants have also been listed as potential landing spots.


So how can the Yankees beat everyone else out to get this done? First and foremost they need to be the Yankees again and flex their fiscal muscle just this once, even if they don't intend to do so at the big league level until 2017. There aren't many concerns about the organization that can't be quelled by a dump truck full of cash with a big fat interlocking NY on the side. The Yankees haven't publicly downplayed the thought of adding Moncada the way they did when names like Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields were brought up earlier this winter. That may be a hopeful sign that they intend to arrive heavy at the negotiating table.

The Yankees also have to convince Moncada that playing in New York is the best career choice he can make and that's not as easy as it was several years ago. The team can't sell playing alongside a multitude of stars or a guaranteed playoff berth every year as it could for much of the past two decades. Instead, the Yankees need to present Moncada with a plan that will have him playing in the Bronx as soon as his skills demand. Didi Gregorius and Robert Refsnyder are intriguing but won't be particularly impassable at short and second, and there will also be an opening in right field when Carlos Beltran's contract ends or if he shifts to DH at some point before that. Those openings set the Yankees apart from the Dodgers and especially the Red Sox; that's something they should stress and stick to since they do have a reputation for being gun shy in shuttling prospects to the majors. In two years, Moncada probably doesn't want to find himself in Scranton stuck behind the 2017 equivalent of Stephen Drew.