The Red Sox are one of the teams in a favorable position to sign 19-year-old Yoan Moncada, a Cuban star who on Tuesday was cleared by Major League Baseball.
A switch-hitter with speed, Moncada has been a middle infielder during his career. But at 6 feet 1 inch, 210 pounds, he has the size and athletic ability to switch positions.
Moncada is said to be a better prospect than Rusney Castillo, who in August landed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Red Sox. Within industry circles, there is speculation Moncada will receive a bonus of as much as $40 million.
Moncada first drew interest from scouts in 2010 when he dominated a series of 16-and-under international tournaments. Moncada played in Cuba’s national league the last two seasons and performed well against older players. Moncada has played primarily second base in Cuba with games at shortstop and center field.
Moncada left Cuba with the approval of the government in October, established residency in Guatemala, and held a workout for teams a month later. In the time since, he has been in limbo as MLB sorted through federal regulations to determine his status. The issue was finally cleared up this week
The Red Sox have held a private workout for Moncada, who has been in Florida since December. Beyond acknowledging the team’s interest, general manager Ben Cherington has said little about Moncada.
But the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers are considered the teams to beat for Moncada.
The Red Sox and Yankees face a bit of deadline. Both clubs exceeded the financial limits on international signings last year and will be prohibited from signing any prospect for more than $300,000 over the next two signing periods.
Until June 15, the Sox and Yankees are eligible to sign any player with the only penalty being a 100 percent tax. In other words, signing Moncada for $40 million would also require a $40 million payment to MLB.
Is Moncada worth that much? New commissioner Rob Manfred has said one of his priorities would be to establish an international draft, a process that will equalize the distribution of talent. For high-revenue teams such as the Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers, Moncada may represent one of the final opportunities to flex their financial muscles in the amateur market.
Any bonus paid to Moncada would not count toward the team’s major league payroll or be subject to the competitive balance tax.
Moncada may need only a year or two in the minors before being ready for the majors.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.