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The news that 19-year-old Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada is now eligible to sign with Major League teams launched an outpouring of speculation, and we may not have to wait too long for resolution to the situation, as the infielder tells MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez he hopes to sign in the near future. “My goal is to sign with a team soon, start training with them, and make it to the Major Leagues as fast as I can with whichever team that might be,” Moncada told Sanchez. Moncada could sign as soon as this month, according to Sanchez, who reminds that the infielder has already had private workouts for the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Padres, Giants, Rangers, Rays, Tigers and Brewers. The first three teams listed are reportedly the heavy favorites to sign Moncada, though Sanchez notes that other teams will schedule private workouts now that Moncada is unblocked. He also adds that contract negotiations have intensified since news broke that he was cleared to sign.
Here are the latest updates on the market for Moncada, who has captured the intrigue of baseball fans around the world…
- Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons spoke to three different GMs whose teams have been previously connected to Moncada and was told that they are not pursuing him after all (Twitter link). The unnamed GMs each pointed to the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers as the favorites, although each warned to keep an eye on the Tigers as well.
- ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that there is an expectation among rival executives that the Athletics will make a serious run at Moncada, as they did with Yoenis Cespedes three offseasons ago.
- In a full article (ESPN Insider required/recommended), Olney writes that there is also a belief among execs that the Dodgers‘ financial restraint to this point in the offseason could make them more aggressive on Moncada, with some believing that they will ultimately land him. Olney adds that many execs feel the Red Sox‘ current surplus of Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Pablo Sandoval and Mookie Betts will limit their interest and limit how far the team is willing to stretch. As Olney puts it, Boston simply isn’t as desperate for Moncada as some of their competition.
With the evening’s news that prized young Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada is free to sign, additional information has begun to roll in. It isn’t hard to see why he has generated so much attention. As Ben Badler of Baseball America explains, Moncada may not have quite the certainty of an otherwise generally comparable prospect such as Corey Seager, but could reasonably be valued in the same range as — and, indeed, ahead of — a young player as heralded as Miguel Sano. That would make Moncada one of the best dozen or so pre-MLB properties in the game.
Here’s the latest:
- Moncada is expected to sign soon, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, although he does have workouts scheduled with individual teams through the middle of this month. The list of teams he has already worked out for does not appear to have been expanded upon from prior reports, with Sanchez noting (via Twitter) that the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Rangers, Rays, Tigers, and Brewers have all had private looks.
- With Moncada now eligible to sign, and a long stretch remaining before the July 2 market flips over, Badler tweets that the Cubs and Rangers are probably out of the mix. Moncada could still theoretically wait to sign with one of those teams — each of which is currently prohibited from paying all but relatively small international signing bonuses for blowing their allotment in past seasons — but that seems rather unlikely.
- Some clubs believe the Dodgers are a “strong favorite” to add Moncada, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweets. Los Angeles has made no secret of its intention to pursue the talented 19-year-old.
- Another expected front-runner, the Red Sox, have remained fairly tight-lipped about Moncada, as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski confirmed that his club had expressed interest and held a workout for Moncada, but otherwise would only acknowledge that Moncada is a talented player, as James Schmehl of MLive.com reports.
Reports this evening suggest that the wheels are now turning for free agent righty James Shields. With multiple offers in hand, says Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter), the veteran is expected to sign by the end of the week.
As I wrote yesterday, while Shields and agent Page Odle face a difficult task of maximizing value in the month of February, time remains for his market to re-develop. It appears that could now be taking place, with the list of suitors potentially growing this evening.
The Cardinals have now “shown interest” in Shields, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. While the St. Louis brass has insisted that the club feels good about its rotation depth, there are enough areas of concern that another arm could make good sense — particularly one of Shields’s quality.
Meanwhile, a rival general manager says that he believes the Yankees are “actively pursuing” Shields, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. New York certainly could justify buttressing its starting five: it probably has an even greater need to upgrade at the back end and protect against uncertainty in the projected rotation than do the Cards. On the other hand, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that he hears the team is not changing its decision not to pursue top-of-the-market starters.
It certainly appears that both clubs have the financial wherewithal to make such a move. St. Louis has been judicious with committing future assets and maintains good forward-looking payroll flexibility. And New York can never be counted out from dipping into its coffers when opportunity arises.
As for other possibilities, the Padres are also believed to have engaged in recent discussions with the Shields camp, Morosi tweets. Another busy club, the White Sox, are almost certainly set to enter the spring with their current array of talent, GM Rick Hahn tells Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com (via Twitter).
While both of these clubs have been mentioned as possible landing spots for Shields at various points in the past, it was never entirely clear whether that was based on analysis or real internal consideration. These latest reports appear to push the needle toward the latter. Obviously, the entry of either or both would be excellent news for Shields’s leverage.
The price tag on James Shields may be dropping to the point where it makes too much sense for the Yankees to ignore, opines Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Shields has never made sense for the Yankees at or in the vicinity of $100MM, Castrovince writes, but if his price tag is trending closer to that of Ervin Santana (four years, $55MM) than that $100MM plateau, the uncertainty and lack of stability in New York’s rotation makes them a logical destination. As Castrovince notes, the Yanks dished out four years and $52MM to Chase Headley shows that the team is still willing to spend on veterans at a price level with which they are comfortable, and Shields’ work ethic, leadership and durability make him a desirable rotation candidate in the Bronx.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- The Yankees have a pair of very viable closer candidates in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, but MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch envisions Betances eventually locking down the closer role, with Miller likely ticketed to be the team’s top setup man. Hoch spoke with manager Joe Girardi, who did say that he’d like to have a set closer by the end of Spring Training. “I think guys like to know their roles, so I think if we can iron it out, I think it would be a good thing to do,” said Girardi. Using Betances in the ninth inning would cause his arbitration price to soar, although arbitration awards holds, strikeouts and ERA as well, so Betances looks like he’ll eventually be an expensive reliever regardless of his role.
- As Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun details, Delmon Young said at the Orioles‘ Fan Festival over the weekend that he entertained the idea of signing elsewhere and had the opportunity to do so, but his desire was always to return to Baltimore. “…my first goal was to come back here just because I like just being in a place where you’re guaranteed to have an opportunity to defend a division title,” said Young. “It could have been cool going to a different place and trying to win another one, but it’s always a lot better to defend what you earned the year before.” Young continued, explaining that he’s excited to have a larger role this year following the departure of Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, also adding that he’s much more comfortable in right field than left field.
- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons spoke with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio yesterday and acknowledged that the team has indeed talked about Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano (Twitter link). Gibbons said GM Alex Anthopoulos has been in touch with Scott Boras regarding the two free agents, as well as Philadelphia counterpart Ruben Amaro Jr. regarding Papelbon. However, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet notes (Twitter link), the Jays aim to be thorough in their search, so it makes sense that they’d explore all avenues.
4:15pm: Baker will earn at a $1.5MM rate if he makes the big league roster, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.
Baker was a mainstay in the Twins’ rotation during their run at the top of the division, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in Spring Training of 2012 and has yet to re-establish himself as a reliable rotation cog in the Major Leagues. Baker has spent the past two seasons in the Cubs and Rangers organizations, working to a combined 5.17 ERA in 95 2/3 innings of work.
Prior to those struggles and his surgery, however, Baker was a solid, if unspectacular mid-rotation arm for Minnesota. He averaged 181 innings of 4.11 ERA ball (103 ERA+) from 2008-10 with the Twins before seemingly taking a significant step forward in a 2011 season that was cut short by injury. Baker notched just 134 2/3 innings that year but had turned in a pristine 3.14 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 prior to being shut down. Metrics such as his 3.45 FIP and 3.43 SIERA reflected genuine improvement as well.
Now with the Yankees, the former second-round pick will hope to earn a rotation spot amid a sea of other injury question marks. Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova ultimately comprise New York’s ideal rotation, but Nova won’t be ready to start the season after having his own Tommy John last year. Meanwhile, Sabathia is coming off knee surgery, uncertainty surrounds Tanaka’s UCL and Pineda’s history of shoulder problems is a persistent concern. Chris Capuano was signed to a big league deal this winter, so he should open the year in the rotation, but given the injury troubles surrounding the entire group of rotation options, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Baker get a crack, should his own health issues permit.
We looked yesterday at the latest on the slowly-moving Yoan Moncada signing eligibility process. Today, there’s an update to that story as well as some more interesting info on the always-intriguing Cuban market:
- It is Major League Baseball, not the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), that is currently holding up Moncada’s freedom to sign, reports Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Though MLB has already declared him a free agent, and Moncada has met the standards for a “general license” that would leave him free to sign (“unblocked”) in OFAC’s eyes, the league is not permitting Moncada (and others) to reach eligibility based on that general license. Instead, per Badler, MLB has required players since Yasiel Puig to apply for and receive a “specific license,” creating up to a six-month delay. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez adds (via Twitter) that OFAC changed its rules four years ago, with the additional step (presumably, the specific license) being added at some intervening point.
- As Badler explains, if the process drags on long enough, it could create some intrigue, as teams like the Yankees and Red Sox will face a two-year international signing ban (for all but sub-$300K bonus amounts) beginning on June 15 of this year.
- Fellow second basemen Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez, among other players, are awaiting their specific licenses, like Moncada, Badler notes.
- Olivera, of course, is more of a plug-and-play option than the other, young Cuban middle infielders. Baseball America passes on some video of Olivera, who cuts rather an imposing figure for a second baseman. Badler wrote up Olivera’s efforts yesterday, noting that the Padres, Giants, Athletics, and Braves had significant presences in the stands.
Former Red Sox starter Bill Monbouquette passed away Sunday at age 78. The Massachusetts native tossed nearly 2,000 MLB frames, most of them with Boston, and notched a no-hitter in 1962. He was a three-time American League All-Star. MLBTR extends its sympathies to his family and friends.
Here are some recent notes from the AL East:
- We’ve already heard it suggested that the Yankees could seek to invalidate Alex Rodriguez‘s home run milestone bonus clause, and ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand now reports that the team is indeed attempting to craft a legal strategy to that end. If you are interested in thinking about what kinds of arguments the club might come up with, I addressed this very question in a series of posts last year regarding legal theories and remedies that teams could conceivably pursue against players suspended for PED use. The third part, in particular, covered A-Rod’s situation, while Part II (and, to a lesser extent, Part I) include useful background information.
- The Blue Jays and Orioles now seem destined to return to the status quo in their front offices, at least for the coming season, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says that both sides made missteps in the recent run of Dan Duquette-to-Toronto rumors.
- For his part, once-and-still Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston says that he is glad to still be with the team and that it is time to move on, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. Beeston added that he believes the ownership group would approve additional payroll if the club’s baseball leadership requests it.
- As for the Orioles, it is time for Duquette and the organization to begin the process of re-establishing trust and normalcy, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The sides were never close to agreeing on compensation, Connolly adds, and Baltimore is still keeping open the possibility of filing tampering charges against Toronto.
The international market provides opportunities to make (mostly) open-market purchases of the rights to the types of players who rarely can be acquired in that manner. Recent years have brought early-prime starters (Masahiro Tanaka, Hyun-jin Ryu), still-youthful sluggers (Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes), and high-upside talents (Yasiel Puig, Jorge Soler). Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada certainly fits into that last category, rating as the type of player who would be chosen at or near the top of an amateur draft. In that regard, his ultimate payday (bonus plus ~100% penalty) will provide some fascinating insight into team valuations. But, of course, we are still waiting for the United States Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to establish Moncada’s eligibility to sign. Here’s the latest:
- The precise hold-up in Moncada’s seemingly overdue OFAC application is not clear, writes Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. Moncada’s agent indicated that he has not heard from OFAC since President Obama announced changes in the US diplomatic stance toward Cuba, seemingly indicating that higher-level activity is playing a role in Moncada’s situation. As McDaniel explains, MLB is working with the government to determine how to apply new unblocking policies. For what it’s worth, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez notes on Twitter, a similar policy appears to have been in place several years back, when Cespedes was preparing to enter the market.
- One entirely hypothetical reason for the delay with regard to Moncada, apart from the broader diplomatic considerations, is the fact that he was allowed to leave the island legally. Per McDaniel, concern that money could flow from Moncada back to the Cuban government is a possible, but by no means substantiated, factor distinguishing his situation.
- Of note, fellow top young middle infielder Andy Ibanez is also rumored to have left the island with the blessing of the government. There are rumblings that he could be unblocked soon, however, McDaniel notes.
- As for another largely-uncertain bit of information, McDaniel adds that the latest chatter has Moncada going for about a $80MM total investment (based on a $40MM bonus).
- Moncada worked out for the Dodgers this morning, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports on Twitter. Los Angeles has given public indication of its interest, and if impressed with its private look will certainly have to be counted among the most capable suitors. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Don Mattingly were both on hand, Sanchez reports on Twitter.
- The other teams to have held private workouts are the Brewers, Rangers, Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, and Padres, Sanchez tweets.
The Orioles‘ reported asking price of right-hander Jeff Hoffman (and others) from the Blue Jays in exchange for executive vice president/GM Dan Duquette seemingly ended those negotiations, but Jeff Blair of Sportsnet reports that the Orioles weren’t the only club to try to acquire Hoffman from Toronto this winter. According to Blair, the Braves also asked the Blue Jays for Hoffman when the two sides discussed a trade involving Justin Upton. Toronto’s answer, Blair says, was an emphatic “no.” Coincidentally, the Braves wound up acquiring another high-upside, former first-round pitcher that’s recovering from Tommy John — Max Fried — as the centerpiece in their trade of Upton to San Diego. Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Blair that Hoffman, who was selected ninth overall in 2014 despite his surgery, is expected to get stretched back out in April, with an eye on activating him with a minor league club in May.
A few more notes pertaining to the game’s Eastern divisions before the northeast portion of the country is buried in snow…
- The Phillies never presented the Brewers with a firm financial offer in their trade talks regarding Jonathan Papelbon, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Those talks appear to be largely dead at this point, and the Phillies may end up hanging on to Papelbon to begin the season, based on Rosenthal’s writings. He adds that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t under pressure from ownership to move Papelbon and will only trade him if the move is to the team’s benefit.
- The acquisition of Alejandro De Aza last summer could end up being a key factor in the Orioles‘ 2015 season, as the former White Sox outfielder now looks to be a big piece of the roster, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. With Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis gone and no external replacements brought in, De Aza figures to be the team’s primary left fielder and leadoff hitter. Though that may seem an underwhelming option to some, Kubatko points out that De Aza’s career OBP mark (.330) would be a nice boost over last season’s team OBP of .311.
- Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel takes a look at the Yankees‘ new glut of international prospects in his ranking of the team’s minor leaguers, with colleague Dave Cameron noting in an introduction that the team’s philosophical shift could pay off in spades a few years down the line. While the Yankees have always been known for spending significantly on free agency, they instead opted to go on a spending spree and blow past their allotted international bonus pool this year while exercising what some consider to be surprising restraint in terms of big league free agents.
Mets majority owner Fred Wilpon is the new chairman of MLB’s finance committee, a move that was met with raised eyebrows given that he was a victim of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. However, that’s not a concern to commissioner Rob Manfred, as Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. “I understand the whole Madoff thing,” Manfred said, “but before and since, Fred Wilpon was an extraordinarily successful businessman. The committee — the finance and compensation committee — really deals with two issues, principally: executive compensation, which he’s more than capable of dealing with, and a central office budget. Obviously, to be a successful businessman, you have to know how to budget.” More from the AL and NL East..
- The Rays are still likely to add a middle infielder and outfielder David DeJesus is still likely to be traded, but one or both pursuits could carry into spring training, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. DeJesus is owed $5MM this year with a $1MM buyout on a 2016 option, which makes him a reasonably priced target but also does not leave him with a ton of trade value.
- Alex Rodriguez offered to meet face-to-face with Yankees executives to apologize for his role in the Biogenesis scandal and clear the air before players report to Tampa next month, according to Teri Thompson, Bill Madden, and Michael O’Keeffe of the Daily News. However, the Yanks declined the invitation, which seems to indicate that the team is not ready to forgive and forget. Sources tell the Daily News trio that the next battle will be over the performance clauses in A-Rod’s deal which call for him to earn $6MM each time he ties a career home run milestone. Rodriguez needs just six more to tie Willie Mays’ 660 homers and earn a $6MM bonus.
- Some people have expressed concern about the Mets‘ shortstop position after the team was unable to find an upgrade this winter. However, Wilmer Flores insists that he’s ready and capable of filling the role. “I’m not going to say I don’t hear things,” Flores said, according to Marc Carig of Newsday. “But I try not to because I know what I can do, man. Honestly, I know what I can do.”