Yoan Moncada Rumors

Rays Notes: Moncada, Boxberger, Teaford

Here’s the latest from Tampa Bay…

  • Yoan Moncada took part in a private workout for Rays officials at Tropicana Field on Wednesday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.  Despite the Rays’ interest in Moncada, it is widely expected that they will be outbid given the widespread interest in the Cuban phenom.
  • Rays right-hander Brad Boxberger has switched agencies and is now represented by the Boras Corporation, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets.  Boxberger was previously represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.  The righty is coming off a huge season out of Tampa’s bullpen, having posted a 2.37 ERA, 5.2 K/BB rate and 14.5 K/9 over 64 2/3 IP in 2014.  Boxberger doesn’t become eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season.
  • The Rays‘ minor league signing of Everett Teaford is yet another example of how the organization focuses on pitchers who throw high fastballs, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes.  Tampa generally either pursues pitchers with rising fastballs or tries to add the pitch to a hurler’s arsenal after the club acquires him, as was the case with Drew Smyly last season.

Quick Hits: Prospects, Viciedo, Cuba, Coffey

It is prospect season yet again, with various evaluators releasing their latest breakdowns of the brightest young players in the game. Baseball AmericaBaseball Prospectus, and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs are working through the systems on a team-by-team basis for the time being, while MLB.com is going position-by-position at present. ESPN.com’s Keith Law (subscription links) has now filed a new top-100 list as well as organization rankings. Kris Bryant and his club, the Cubs, rank atop Law’s respective boards.

  • The Phillies should take a flier on Dayan Viciedo, argues CSNPhilly.com’s Corey Seidman. While there are some barriers to such a move, and reasons against it, Seidman says that there is enough upside left in the 25-year-old that Philadelphia ought to roll the dice.
  • In another update on Yoan Moncada and the general situation of Cuban ballplayers, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports that the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) does still issue the “specific licenses” that MLB has required Cubans to obtain before they are cleared to sign. Since it appears that such players would already be able to sign pursuant to a “general license” (more on that here), Badler suggests that MLB-related requests may be receiving a lower priority that extends the delay.
  • Free agent reliever Todd Coffey has interest from five or six club and may be nearing a deal, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. The 34-year-old has not seen big league action since 2012, but put up intriguing numbers last year at Triple-A in the Mariners organization.

International Notes: Tejada, Ibanez, Kang

Longtime big leaguer Miguel Tejada, now 40, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Mexican League’s Pericas de Puebla, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deports reports. Tejada does not appear to be looking to spark another return to the big leagues, but instead says he wants to play out the season and enjoy one more winter league run before hanging up his spikes.

Here are some more notes with an international flare:

  • While Yoan Moncada has drawn much of the attention, fellow young infielder Andy Ibanez is a legitimate prospect in his own right, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Ibanez figures to command a pool-busting bonus, says Badler, who breaks down the full history and book on the 21-year-old. Though he lacks the flashy tools of Moncada, Ibanez is framed as a solid all-around player with a promising bat. All said, he is a better prospect than Roberto Baldoquin, who just landed $8MM from the Angels, in Badler’s estimation.
  • The transition from playing in one country to another can be difficult on many levels, as Ryan Sadowskinow the first-ever full-time international scout for the KBO’s Lotte Giants — explained to me on a recent episode of the MLBTR podcast. New Pirates addition Jung-ho Kang is in the midst of just such a move, as Bill Mitchell explores for Baseball America. Kang is currently training in the United States with his now-former KBO club, the Nexen Heroes, before heading to camp with the Bucs to begin his new journey.


Yoan Moncada, Others May Be Nearing Free Agency

6:26pm: Badler adds (via Twitter) that should Major League Baseball end its previous policy of requiring a specific license, in addition to OFAC’s license, then not only would Moncada be eligible to sign, but second basemen Andy Ibanez and Hector Olivera would also be able to sign immediately.

6:21pm: Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada is close to being declared a free agent and could be cleared to sign with a Major League club as soon as two weeks from now, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

As Passan writes (and as Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel chronicled recently), changes announced by President Obama allow Cubans that can prove residence in a third country to receive a general unblocking license and avoid the process of being cleared by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The 19-year-old Moncada has a permanent residency document from Guatemala, a Guatemalan National I.D. and a statement from a Guatemalan bank to prove that residency, Passan reports.

A Treasury Department official tells Passan that if Moncada receives that general license, the onus falls on Major League Baseball to clear the player to negotiate with big league teams. Moncada had previously been waiting for a license from OFAC, but changes to the relations with Cuba now shift responsibility to clear him to MLB (which is one of the reasons that Baseball America’s Ben Badler recently reported that MLB, not OFAC, was preventing Moncada’s free agency). The League has drafted a letter and will request a meeting with OFAC to confirm that the changes to the policy, Passan hears.

Passan adds that MLB is rightfully taking caution in their approach to this, as past cases of Cuban players coming to America have been tainted by forged documentation and bribes to expedite the process. Should there be a conflict with the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, penalties could include $1MM in corporate fines, $250K in personal fines and as many as 10 years in prison. The league issued the following statement to Passan regarding the matter:

“MLB has important questions regarding how the new regulations apply to the unique circumstances of Cuban players based on our significant experience in this area, and our discussions with OFAC in prior years. MLB is committed to following the laws of the United States, and will not change its policy requiring that Cuban Players receive a specific OFAC unblocking license until it confirms with all relevant branches of our government, including OFAC, that any new approach is consistent with the law. We hope to receive clarity on this issue as quickly as possible.”

As it stands, the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs remain the favorites, Passan notes. Of course, the Cubs are presently unable to sign Moncada as they are restricted from signing an international prospect for more than $250K after blowing past their international spending limit in the 2013-14 signing period. Should Moncada not sign rior to June 15, the Cubs would again be able to sign him, while the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Angels would be restricted from doing so after exceeding their own international spending limits from the 2014-15 signing period.


Cuba Links: Unblocking, Moncada, Olivera

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 PadresGiantsAthletics, and Braves had significant presences in the stands.

Latest On Yoan Moncada

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 BrewersRangers, GiantsYankeesRed Sox, and Padres, Sanchez tweets

Quick Hits: Moncada, Dodgers, Johan, Varona

In an interview with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (audio link), Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said his team will scout Yoan Moncada as they would any prospect of “great intrigue,” but “given our financial situation, I wouldn’t expect us to be the winners of an auction.”  Silverman feels this is another example of how difficult it is for successful small-market teams to replenish their systems, as “all of the [player acquisition] structures, whether it’s the draft or international, put us at a disadvantage.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • A group of South Korean investors are talking with the Dodgers about buying a minority stake of the franchise, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports.  The news was originally reported by two South Korean newspapers, one of which (the Korea Joongang Daily) reports that the discussed terms were $370MM for 20 percent of the team.  A source with knowledge of the talks told Shaikin there is a “zero” chance the Dodgers’ ownership group would give up control of the team in these negotiations.
  • The Phillies face a tough road back to respectability but they can get there within two to four years if they augment their financial resources with good young talent, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan opines.  The worst-case scenario would be if they make the wrong moves and revenues decline, thus putting the club in a long streak of losing seasons, a la the Orioles prior to their 2012 playoff appearance.
  • Peter Greenberg, Johan Santana‘s agent, said his client doesn’t have any structural damage in his shoulder, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets.  Santana was recently scratched from a Venezuelan Winter League start due to his shoulder, though Greenberg said Santana might return to pitch in the league playoffs.
  • Cuban outfielder Dayron Varona receives a scouting report from ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider subscription required), who praises Varona’s running and plus arm but has some questions about his hitting.  The current popularity of Cuban players could inflate Varona’s market, Law feels, though he thinks Varona will sign for “close to eight figures as a potential big league backup.”
  • The Blue Jays could consider Everth Cabrera as an option at second base, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.  Presumably the Jays’ interest would hinge on the outcome of Cabrera’s ongoing legal case, which may not take place until April.  Heyman also notes that Rickie Weeks “seems to be further down [Toronto’s] list.”
  • ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield lists the five teams he felt improved the most and least this winter.

International Notes: Oeltjen, Varona, Moncada

Outfielder Trent Oeltjen has seen action in parts of three MLB seasons and no less than eight Triple-A campaigns. The Aussie outfielder is now set to retire after playing his final ballgame this weekend for his hometown Sydney Blue Sox, according to a club release. Though Oeltjen had limited opportunity to have an impact at the big league level, he was a force in the upper minors. Across 2,908 plate appearances at Triple-A, he slashed .294/.358/.479 with 68 home runs and 122 stolen bases.

  • A large gathering of scouts was on hand for a showcase this week featuring Cuban outfielder Dayron Varona, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. (Crasnick estimates that fifty sets of eyes were on hand to see the bonus limit-exempt Varona, while Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets that it was more like 75.) Via ObstructedView.net, Varona’s Serie Nacional statistics show a high-contact approach (.312/.376/.470 lifetime slash), though he has not put up big counting stats with 38 home runs and 22 steals (against 25 times caught) in a career spanning 1,504 trips to the plate.
  • In the pursuit of Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada, who is subject to international bonus caps and penalties, the rich teams have the edge, Ben Badler of Baseball America explains. Any team signing Moncada will, of course, have to pay a 100% tax on most of the anticipated signing bonus. While the bonus itself can be paid out over three years, Badler notes that the penalty amount must be paid in a lump sum within a month of the June 15th end of the signing period. Regardless of exactly how many tens of millions of dollars Moncada commands, that is going to be a very significant, inflexible hit to the balance sheet — especially since it will go to a 19-year-old who will not add big league value for some time. Additionally, Badler notes, the potential for large arbitration paydays must also be accounted for. In the aggregate, even if the total cost (bonus plus penalty) added up to something akin to the payouts promised to players like Jose Abreu and Rusney Castillo, the required structure of the deal would greatly increase the cost to the team and present cash flow roadblocks. Deeper-pocketed teams will have an obvious edge in freeing resources to make that work.

Free Agent Notes: Moncada, Olivera, Belisario, Santana, Zito

While he awaits clearance from the government, Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada is putting on showcases for interested teams. The Yankees have already put the 19-year-old through the paces, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. In addition to New York and the previously-reported Giants, Moncada has worked out for the BrewersRangersRed Sox, and Padres, per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Meanwhile, the DodgersRaysCubs, and Phillies have shown interest. For their part, the Twins will not seek a private workout because they believe the bidding will go too high, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.

Here are some more free agent notes:

  • Fellow Cuban second bagger Hector Olivera will begin a two-day open showcase in the Dominican Republic tomorrow, Badler reports on Twitter. Olivera figures to be more of an immediate contributor than the younger Moncada.
  • Clubs interested in righty Ronald Belisario, as with Burke Badenhop, include the Blue Jays and Nationals, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 32-year-old has run up solid innings totals over each of the last three years, but has seen his ERA steadily move north during that stretch. On the other hand, ERA estimators have viewed him as a solidly average performer in each of those seasons, with a low strand rate likely causing most of his troubles in 2014.
  • The YankeesBlue Jays, and Padres are three of the approximately six teams pursuing lefty Johan Santana, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. An upcoming Venezuelan league start could have some bearing on where the one-time ace ends up.
  • Another prominent lefty is plotting his comeback as well. Per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link), Barry Zito still plans to return to baseball after a year off and will put on a showcase this spring. The 36-year-old last threw in 2013, working to a career-worst 5.74 ERA over 133 1/3 innings.

Quick Hits: Moncada, Zimmermann

The Giants have already held a private workout for Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. The Giants’ ownership is pushing for the team to get more involved in acquiring Cuban talent, Badler writes, and signing the 19-year-old Moncada, a very highly rated young talent, would be a splashy way to do just that. Of course, such a signing will have to wait for now, as Moncada still needs to be cleared by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control before he can sign. The Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Marlins have already been connected to Moncada. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • With Max Scherzer‘s signing and the impending trade of Yovani Gallardo to the Rangers, the Brewers could try to trade for Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmermann, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes. The Brewers’ past trades for aces C.C. Sabathia and Zack Greinke helped key playoff runs, and Morosi thinks Milwaukee might be able to sign Zimmermann long-term, given that Aramis Ramirez, Kyle Lohse, Jonathan Broxton, Adam Lind and Gerardo Parra can all come off the books after 2015.
  • Teams are increasingly avoiding boom-and-bust cycles and are instead trying to build consistent winners, Alden Gonzalez writes for Sports On Earth. Teams are trying to avoid becoming the Phillies, now on the downswing after clinging to their veteran core. Instead, they’re trying to win both now and in the future, avoiding dramatic going-for-it moves as well as full rebuilds. The current postseason structure (with ten teams, including four Wild Card teams) encourages teams to try to get in but discourages making “all-in” moves, because making one’s way through the playoffs involves a high degree of variance. Gonzalez counts only two teams (the Tigers and perhaps the Blue Jays) pushing in all their chips in 2015, with only one (the Phillies) that isn’t really trying to compete. More emblematic, perhaps, of the current environment are the Athletics, whose offseason has blended future-oriented and win-now moves, and the Nationals, who have largely maintained a very strong team but geared their offseason toward sustaining their success beyond 2015.