Note: This post was written before Jesse Sanchez reported that Lopez signed with the Diamondbacks. Since half of it is discussing Moncada, the general sentiments still apply.
The statement "the Yankees should sign Yoan Moncada and Yoan Lopez" is not one that'll get you much disagreement from Yankee fans. We've spent a good chunk of the winter discussing - more like salivating - over the uber-talented and identically named Cuban defectors, and for good reason.
Moncada is a 19-year-old five-tool prospect who plays shortstop. Baseball America's Ben Badler suggested back in August that he might be the first pick in the 2015 amateur draft if he were eligible. Lopez is 21 and comes fully loaded with a fastball that sits in the mid-90's and can reach triple digits. Unlike the other Yoan, he's been cleared to sign with a pro team by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (which contrary to popular belief does not exist solely for the purpose of ushering Cuban baseball players into the majors). Add to all that good stuff the fact that the Yankees have already neutron bombed their international spending pool allotment for this year - they won't be allowed to sign pool-eligible players like these for two years beginning in May - and doing everything humanly possible to land the two Yoans seems like an absolute no-brainer.
First and foremost, signing Moncada and Lopez would be a huge step in revitalizing a Yankee farm system that's had a hard time finding its way over the past several years. They landed only a single player on BA's mid-season top-50 for 2014, in Luis Severino, and while they have some other interesting assets - Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez - none of them are exactly banging on the door to the majors, and Triple-A standout Rob Refsnyder is, at least for now, blocked by the uninspiring Stephen Drew. The Yoans would be a major splash in player development whose ripples would be felt through the entire organization, even impacting changes the team might make to its MLB roster.
Landing the Cuban duo would be like stealing two high first round draft picks. At 21, with some professional experience in Cuba's Serie Nacional, Lopez is akin to a top college arm coming off his junior or senior season. Moncada, with limited pro time of his own, would be like snagging a supremely skilled high school or JUCO player with talent oozing out of his eyeballs. Adding that kind of ability independent of the actual draft might convince the Yankees to unclench when it comes to surrendering their first rounder to sign one of the remaining qualifying offer free agents in Max Scherzer or James Shields.
Given Moncada and Lopez's top notch measurables, their likely instant entry onto top prospect lists and their potential to move quickly through the minors, they could also push Brian Cashman to loosen his grip on some of the Yankees' better prospects in trade talks. That could mean a more serious look at Cole Hamels and other starters like Jordan Zimmermann and David Price, who might be available via trade, or at other candidates who could pad soft spots on the current roster. Lopez could make Severino more of a talking point than he's been so far. Moncada's future at short, along with the signing of Drew, which many of us are still trying to make sense of, could make flipping Didi Gregorius to a shortstop-needy team a possible alternative. The Phillies in a package for Hamels? The Mets in a deal for Jon Niese?
One way in which Moncada and Lopez differ from draft picks, of course is in their price tag. There's no limit to how much the Yankees, or the Red Sox, who've also exceeded their international pool money this year, can offer them. Moncada will almost certainly obliterate the nine-year, $30 million deal that Jorge Soler, a similarly talented Cuban prospect, landed from the Cubs in 2012. If the six-year, $27 million pact that 24-year-old righty Raisel Iglesias got from the Reds this past June is any indication, Lopez will be well-compensated, too. Reports are that the Yankees do have interest in both Moncada and Lopez, but just how far will they be willing to go? The same kinds of reports told us they liked Soler, Rusney Castillo, and Yasmany Tomas, too, but all of those guys are currently playing elsewhere. They were reluctant to go the $40-something million extra mile to retain proven commodities like David Robertson and Brandon McCarthy. What makes us think they'll do it for a couple of guys who have never set foot on a major league - or even a minor league field?
The availability of Moncada and Lopez is a unique opportunity. The Yankees can grow their farm with some outstanding young players without doing much of the legwork that they've struggled with, while simultaneously granting themselves much-needed flexibility throughout their organization. There aren't as many chances as there once were for big market teams to employ their financial weight as an advantage over the competition. This is one the Yankees shouldn't hold back from.