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Yoan Moncada Rumors
Reliever Craig Breslow, the Red Sox‘ representative to the MLBPA, is opposed to an international draft and would like for it to remain possible for international free agents to receive bonuses as big as Yoan Moncada‘s, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes. A huge deal like Moncada’s would likely be impossible with an international draft in place. “I think while, intuitively, people may look at a guy who has never played here and gets a big signing bonus and there’s potentially some envy, I think the greater membership (of players) understands that anytime we can eliminate restrictions to signing, that’s a good thing,” says Breslow. On Sunday, Breslow visited with MLBPA head Tony Clark, who has voiced skepticism about the idea of an international draft. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Jung-ho Kang, who signed this offseason for four years and $11MM plus a posting fee of around $5MM, provides the Pirates with a low-cost insurance policy throughout their infield, Newsday’s David Lennon writes. Second baseman Neil Walker and first baseman Pedro Alvarez can become free agents after 2016, while third baseman Josh Harrison will become eligible after 2017 (and can be moved around the diamond if needed). That means the Pirates could turn to Kang at one of a number of positions, perhaps getting a starter at a cost of only a few million dollars a year. “If he turns out to be a regular player, it’s a great signing for us,” says Huntington. “If he turns out to be a role player, it’s still an OK signing for us. And if we’ve missed, well, it won’t cripple us. But it will hurt us.”
- Marlins president David Samson says the team’s decisions to sign Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich arose out of their struggles in 2012, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. That year, the Marlins prepared for the opening of their new ballpark by acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Carlos Zambrano. Those big outside acquisitions didn’t work out, and the Marlins finished 69-93. “I truly felt that opening the ballpark and making splashes was the way to do it and it didn’t lead to sustainability,” says Samson. “That was a big moment for all of us in our history and I got it wrong, completely, almost in every way.” Instead of building their team around veterans, then, they’re focusing on keeping the right core players in Miami.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opines baseball needs to expand its roster and suggests a 28-man limit with 25 eligible on game day. MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told Cafardo there have been discussions about roster expansion, but nothing has advanced. There are obstacles with increased salaries and insurances costs, but those issues, according to Cafardo, are outweighed by the 162-game schedule becoming too much for a player’s body to handle. Cafardo also proposes baseball convene a panel of players who avoided the disabled list throughout their careers to determine if there are any patterns to their remaining healthy.
In other items from Cafardo’s Sunday Baseball Notes column:
- According to one GM, Johnny Cueto “will get a Max Scherzer deal” if the Reds right-hander can put together a 15-20-win season. Cueto ranks fifth on MLBTR’s 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings list.
- The Yankees were given the opportunity to top the Red Sox‘s $31.5MM offer to Yoan Moncada, but declined. “We scouted him extensively for years,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. “I feel we put him through the highest level of scouting and medical evaluation. I just wasn’t comfortable offering what we actually offered ($25MM), let alone going any higher.“
- For now, the Red Sox will play Moncada at second base, but his eventual position will depend on Boston’s needs in the next couple of years.
- The tampering allegation made by the Rays over the Cubs‘ hiring of Joe Maddon is still alive.
- The Red Sox are showcasing Jemile Weeks, likely ticketed for Triple-A, as a super utility player and may be able sell fairly high on him with the Tigers one of the teams in the market for such a player.
The Rays have announced that starting pitcher Alex Cobb‘s MRI has revealed that he has tendinitis in his right forearm. He will not be able to start Opening Day. Cobb’s injury is just the latest in a long string for the Rays rotation, which is also currently without Drew Smyly (shoulder), Alex Colome (pneumonia) and, of course Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery). Even before Cobb’s injury, the Rays had planned to consider minor moves to upgrade their starting pitching depth. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington isn’t concerned about being fired if his expensive signing of Yoan Moncada doesn’t work out, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe writes. “We understand that not everything we do is going to work out,” says Cherington. “But we feel good about the process and why we’re doing it.” As Abraham notes, the signing of the 19-year-old Moncada comes with plenty of upside, but it’s risky, too — the Red Sox have already made a series of high-profile investments (though not as high-profile or nearly as expensive as Moncada) in international players who haven’t worked out, like Jose Vinicio, Adalberto Ibarra, Juan Carlos Linares, Tzu-Wei Lin and Dalier Hinojosa.
- The Mets didn’t anticipate Zack Wheeler‘s elbow issues would be so severe, so that wasn’t why they held onto Dillon Gee, Andy Martino of New York Daily News writes. They did, however, keep Noah Syndergaard in part because of general worries about the health of their starting pitchers, including not only Wheeler (who also had elbow discomfort last year) but also Bartolo Colon and Matt Harvey. Martino also explains why they didn’t trade Wheeler before the news that he would have to have Tommy John surgery, even though they were aware of his prior elbow trouble — they still like his upside and he’ll still be under team control when he returns.
The Red Sox have been aware of newly signed Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada since 2010, when he played in a tournament in Mexico, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Since then, Moncada has followed a mysterious path from Cuba to Guatemala and then to Florida, but GM Ben Cherington says the team isn’t overly concerned about that. “Our obligation is to say, ‘OK, here are the players that are available. Let’s scout them and figure out what this guy’s worth and if we should make an offer,'” says Cherington. “How they get to that place is not our job or responsibility, so we simply don’t spend a lot of time on it. We do background on the human being … but we understand there’s other things going on that we’re not involved with.” The Red Sox introduced Moncada to the press yesterday, but many questions about his life remain unanswered. Here are more notes on Moncada.
- The details of Moncada’s journey remain unclear, but Ron Borges of the Herald speaks to former Indians and Red Sox star Luis Tiant about a somewhat similar journey he made more than 50 years ago. “I was in Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion,” says Tiant. “Just when I was supposed to go back to Mexico, the borders opened up for a month or so. I caught the last flight out. My father said go. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t gotten out of Cuba.” The Indians purchased Tiant’s contract after that 1961 season, and he made it to the big leagues three years later. Meanwhile, however, he could not see his family for 14 years.
- Moncada will likely start this season with Class A Greenville, writes Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Moncada expects he could make the big leagues next season.
The Red Sox‘ recent signing of Yoan Moncada finds its roots in one of GM Ben Cherington’s first decisions on the job, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. By promoting Eddie Romero to director of international scouting and soliciting more international input from VP of player personnel Allard Baird, Cherington was preparing to explore new ways for the team to make wise investments in new talent. “There are fewer and fewer opportunities to gain advantages,” says Cherington. “A lot of things have been leveled out, so attention to [international] areas was definitely a reaction to that.” The piece is too long to fully describe here, so be sure to give it a read.
- Moncada says he hopes to be in the big leagues in one year, he told reporters including Boston.com’s Steve Silva. But he seemingly acknowledged that goal was hardly a sure thing, or even his primary purpose. “I’m just looking forward to getting back on the field and playing baseball,” he said. “It’s been so long. … I want them to see me as a dedicated teammate and a good guy.”
- Veteran Blue Jays lefty Johan Santana is still passionate about his craft, as Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun writes. Indeed, that’s the reason that he is still trying to come back after a series of setbacks. Soon to turn 36, Santana is still building up strength with short throwing sessions (in both time and distance). “When it’s time to move on I’ll move on but I still feel that I can do this,” says Santana. “I had a great career, a lot of ups and downs but I’ve always had a positive outlook, through good days and bad days.”
- Fellow Blue Jays hurler Liam Hendriks is facing a different set of challenges, as MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes. Out of options and adjusting to life as a reliever, Hendriks says he hopes to crack the Toronto pen out of camp — not least of which to script a worthwhile follow-up to a 2014 season after which he was named the best Australian ballplayer.
In his latest at WEEI.com, Rob Bradford takes an excellent look at Yoan Moncada‘s journey from Cuba to Boston, chronicling his relationship with agent David Hastings along the way. Hastings, a Tampa-based CPA, was introduced to Moncada through a client and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to represent him, but he admits to being stunned at the level of work that went into it. Hastings recalls that his printer ran out of paper as he printed 300+ pages of rules and regulations for representing a player. “Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. It became a life,” Hastings tells Bradford. Moncada and friend Carlos Mesa (a 27-year-old outfielder who became Moncada’s mentor and was also signed by Boston) became part of the Hastings family, writes Bradford. Hastings’ wife, Jo, who was born in Cuba, formed a quick bond with the pair at an apartment they had previously had built for Hastings’ mother-in-law. Bradford includes plenty of quotes from Sox international scouting director Eddie Romero and the details of a last-minute push to increase their original offer of $25MM. Asked if they could up their offer to $30MM, GM Ben Cherington and Romero tried to track down owner John Henry, who was at the Daytona 500. When Henry’s wife got a hold of him, his response spoke volumes about the team’s top-to-bottom interest in Moncada: “Go to 31.” Another $500K was tacked on shortly after, writes Bradford, and the two sides had their deal. Still, Bradford notes that Hastings was seemingly more concerned with Moncada’s well-being early in the negotiation process, asking where he would live, where he would eat, and who would help him transition to his new life before even attempting to get the Sox to up their offer.
Moncada’s introductory press conference will be held at 11:30 ET today, but in the meantime, here are a few more notes more from the AL East…
- Rusney Castillo may not be ready for Opening Day, writes MLB.com’s Ian Browne. Even if Castillo is healthy by that point, however, it’s not a guarantee that he’d make the Red Sox‘ 25-man roster, Browne notes. Mookie Betts has been excellent in camp thus far, and Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino are expected to man the outfield corners. Castillo’s injury status might make it more likely that both Allen Craig and Daniel Nava remain with the club as bench options, however. Manager John Farrell recently said the team fully expects Craig to remain on the roster, but the out-of-options Nava makes sense as a trade candidate on paper.
- Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka fired two perfect innings and struck out two in his spring debut yesterday, writes Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. While individual spring starts rarely carry significant meaning, this was Tanaka’s first test of his elbow a season after slightly tearing his UCL. “We’re aware that things could crop up at any time, but it’s been very positive,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild. “I think (the injury) hasn’t affected him because he hasn’t felt anything. He’s going at it like it’s normal. He’s just going to pitch.” Tanaka used all of his pitches, including his splitter, in the outing.
- Marco Estrada tells John Lott of the National Post that his preference is to pitch out of the Blue Jays‘ rotation, but he’s happy to work in relief as long as the team is winning games. While Estrada’s ERA as a starter and ERA as a reliever last season were separated by nearly two full runs, Estrada doesn’t feel that indicates that he’s better deployed as a reliever; rather, he maintains that he corrected some mechanical flaws shortly after his move to the bullpen and feels that he’d have seen a similar turnaround even in the Brewers’ rotation. Estrada is in the mix for two open rotation spots, along with top prospects Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris, following the loss of Marcus Stroman to a torn ACL.
- Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets that if the Blue Jays go with Brett Cecil as their closer, then manager John Gibbons would like to have a third lefty in his ‘pen in addition to Cecil and setup man Aaron Loup. Lefty options on the 40-man roster include Jayson Aquino, Scott Barnes, Colt Hynes, Rob Rasmussen and Norris. Non-roster lefties in camp include Jeff Francis, Andrew Albers and Johan Santana, though Santana isn’t expected to be healthy by Opening Day.
The Red Sox have officially signed heralded Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada to a minor league contract, the team announced. Terms of the deal weren’t announced, though Moncada reportedly received a $31.5MM signing bonus according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links).
Because Boston had already exceeded its bonus pool for the 2014-15 international signing period, the team will pay a full 100 percent tax on Moncada’s bonus, bringing the total cost for his services to $63MM. On top of that, the Red Sox will now be restricted from signing any international amateur for more than $300K in the 2015-16 and the 2016-17 international signing periods.
Moncada, a 19-year-old switch-hitting infielder, is the most sought-after international prospect in recent history. Said to be a true five-tool talent, scouts have likened his upside to that of Robinson Cano and Chase Utley (in his prime). Prospect specialists at Baseball America, MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs have all suggested that Moncada would rank in the top five to 15 prospects in Major League Baseball upon signing, which will make him Boston’s new No. 1 prospect. Unlike recent Cuban signings such as Jose Abreu and Rusney Castillo, however, Moncada will likely require at least one season in the minors — possibly two.
Over the past several months, the Red Sox have been one of the primary teams connected to Moncada, although many believed the Yankees and Dodgers to be in a better position to land him, as the Red Sox don’t have a clear long-term need in the infield with Dustin Pedroia at second base and Pablo Sandoval entering the first of a five-year, $95MM contract. (Sandoval, of course, could move over to first base in a few years.) Xander Bogaerts figures to be the long-term answer at shortstop, though the expectation among scouts is that Moncada will end up at second, third or possibly in center field (where Castillo is currently slotted).
As Sanchez wrote last week, the overage tax must be paid to the league in full by July 15, whereas the bonus can be paid out in installments over the course of the next three years. It’s not known at this time whether or not the Red Sox made the best offer, but agent David Hastings did say recently that size of the bonus would not be the sole determining factor in choosing a team. Moncada also had private workouts for the Yankees, Dodgers, Padres, Brewers, Rays, D-Backs, Tigers, Giants, Rangers and Cubs (though the last two would have been ineligible to sign him until July 2, as they had incurred maximum penalties in the 2013-14 international signing period, thereby restricting them in the 2014-15 period).
With this agreement, Moncada has absolutely shattered the previous record signing bonus for an international amateur. That distinction was held briefly by infielder Roberto Baldoquin, following his $8MM bonus from the Angels earlier this winter, and then held even more briefly by right-hander Yoan Lopez, who received an $8.27MM bonus from the D-Backs. The size of Moncada’s bonus will likely come up in discussing the next collective bargaining agreement, as it figures to be a major talking point among proponents of an international draft.
MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez was the first to report Moncada’s deal with Boston (via Twitter).
We learned this morning that Suk-min Yoon and the Orioles appear to be in the process of severing their relationship, with Yoon apparently headed back to his native Korea. Yoon is still formally required to report to the Orioles on Friday, a club official tells Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. His contract will not be voided if he does not show, says Encina. Instead, Yoon would be placed on the restricted list and he would not be paid while so designated. O’s skipper Buck Showalter commented briefly on the situation, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets, saying: “He’s going to be fine. We wish him well.”
Here are some more international notes:
- The Red Sox are still awaiting final results of drug testing on Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada before making his deal official, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports. That is expected to occur in short order, with Moncada set to report to minor league camp thereafter.
- J.J. Cooper of Baseball America explores the impact of the Moncada signing on the push for an international draft in a highly recommended piece. Unlike prior major Cuban signings, which included competition from a broad number of clubs, the relatively new rules applicable to Moncada — namely, a virtual 100% tax on international bonus pool overages — meant that only a few, deep-pocket teams could realistically compete. The general system is favorable for Cuban players seeking big bonuses, but its function has added impetus to the idea of a “single method of entry,” as new commissioner Rob Manfred recently phrased it. Logistical impediments clearly remain, but one lower-revenue club official tells Cooper that an international draft “has to happen” to correct the imbalance.
- Broader political matters can easily impact international efforts, of course, as seen recently with the Cuban market. That appears to be the case in Venezuela, where new visa rules will complicate scouting efforts, as Ben Badler of Baseball America writes. The need for a visa to enter the country will create logistical hurdles for operations, says Badler, who notes that some Venezuelan trainers had already begun moving players to the Dominican Republic to increase their visibility.
- Indeed, the general socio-political and economic climate in Venezuela will lead the Mariners to transfer their operations there to the Dominican, according to a report from Ignacio Serrano of El Emergente (Spanish language link; h/t Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, via Twitter). Seattle is declining comment on the matter, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune tweets. The overall situation is creating concern of a broader exodus, though Phillies assistant GM Benny Looper tells Morosi (Twitter link) that “it’s business as usual for the Phillies in Venezuela.”
The $31.5MM bonus the Red Sox will reportedly pay Yoan Moncada has generated a variety of reactions from players around the league, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe writes. Moncada’s bonus is well beyond what most other 19-year-old prospects might be able to make, since he was able to negotiate with all 30 teams. “It’s not right that a Cuban 19-year-old gets paid [$31.5 million] and the best 19-year-old in the entire USA gets probably 1/6 of that,” wrote Rays pitcher Drew Smyly. “Everyone should have to go through the same process.” An international draft would help standardize the system by which amateurs sign with teams, and new commissioner Rob Manfred seems to favor discussing it in the next round of CBA negotiations. Abraham polls Red Sox players about an international draft, leading to a large range of answers. Here’s Jackie Bradley Jr.’s: “I would have loved to be a free agent in college and made the best deal I could. Maybe I should have moved out of the country. If everybody was a free agent, you’d get what your real value is.” Here are more notes from the AL East.
- More than six years after being selected first overall in the 2008 draft, shortstop Tim Beckham is competing for a big-league job in Rays camp for the first time, Marc Topkin writes for Baseball America (subscription-only). With Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar now gone, the Rays now have more space in their middle infield. Asdrubal Cabrera will take one of the middle infield starting jobs, but Topkin suggests Beckham could be a reserve infielder or even a starter, particularly if the team decides it would be best if Cabrera played second base. Beckham, now 25, moved slowly through the minors and finally made his big-league debut in 2013 before missing most of last season due to a knee injury.
- The Blue Jays‘ pursuit of executive Dan Duquette was serious, but Duquette is back to work with the Orioles, writes MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. Duquette confirms that he could not leave the Orioles for Toronto because the two teams could not agree on a compensation package for him. This offseason, the Orioles made few big moves of their own and lost Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller and Nick Markakis, although Duquette points out that the O’s should benefit from full seasons from Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis.
Wilin Rosario or Michael McKenry could be traded before Spring Training is over, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post opines, as the Rockies look for ways to solve their catching surplus behind starter Nick Hundley. Manager Walt Weiss said that he doesn’t plan to use three roster spots on players who can only catch, so the club’s plan to give Rosario some time at first base could be a solution. Colorado has explored trades for Rosario this offseason but if they hold onto him, he’d hold the edge on a roster spot over the out-of-options McKenry.
Here’s some more from around the NL West…
- The Diamondbacks will have approximately $19.02MM in combined pool money for the 2015 draft class and the 2015-16 international signing period, though their international spending will be greatly limited due to overage in the 2014-15 period. Given how Arizona’s pool is the second-highest of any team’s, Baseball America’s Ben Badler opines (via Twitter) that the D’Backs made a “questionable” decision to “handcuff themselves” in the international market until 2017 by going over their current pool limit to sign Yoan Lopez.
- Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler was “pleasantly surprised” that GM A.J. Preller was able to make so many major trades this winter, though club ownership went into the offseason knowing changes had to be made. “We knew we had to re-energize the community,” Fowler told reporters, including the Associated Press. “I think last year was sort of the beta test for us: OK, this is not working. It was time….After looking at our numbers in terms of attendance and looking at the interest in the marketplace, we felt we had to do some investment spending.”
- From that same chat with reporters (including MLB.com’s Corey Brock), Padres president/CEO Mike Dee said that the club isn’t too disappointed over not landing Yoan Moncada. “We would have loved to have had him, but we now have flexibility we might not have had [in future international spending],” Dee said.
- Rick Renteria has been offered a number of jobs since being fired as the Cubs’ manager earlier this winter, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes, including a return to the Padres. Though Renteria is reportedly going to take a year away from baseball, manager Bud Black has been “trying to get him to pop over to Peoria [where the Padres train] and get back involved with us. I’m trying to get him back in as soon as possible, just to help us out to whatever extent he wants to help out.” Before being hired by Chicago, Renteria managed and coached in the Padres’ organization for a decade, including six seasons on Black’s coaching staff.
- Yasmani Grandal‘s strong pitch-framing metrics were a big reason the Dodgers acquired him in the Matt Kemp trade, Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles writes.