The Meaning of Moncada

Courtesy of Getty Images

Courtesy of Getty Images

The Red Sox have signed 19-year-old Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada to a deal worth $31.5 million, but the organization must pay double that because of Major League Baseball’s international player regulations and the 100 percent tax on contract money once a team passes the cap.

The Sox had over-shot the spending cap and into the luxury tax when they signed Cuban prospect Rusney Castillo to a 7-year, $72.5 million contract last summer, so it made this signing easier for the Sox because it would already have to pay the excess any way. However, because of the logistics of the international free agent restrictions, the Red Sox are now not allowed to sign an international free agent for more than $300,000 until July 2, 2017.

But the Sox aren’t worried about its $60 million investment, because the switch-hitting Moncada was widely believed to have been the number one overall selection in the MLB draft had he been eligible and the draft been today.

Multiple sources, like Jim Callis of MLB.com and Baseball America’s Ben Badler, think Moncada is a top-15 prospect in all of baseball. Kiley McDaniels of Fangraphs is even higher on Moncada. He thinks he’s maybe the fifth-best prospect in the game. The top comparisons for best-case scenario upside of Moncada has been Robinson Cano or Chase Utley.

The Red Sox outspent the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers in pursuit of Moncada. The Yankees offered $25 million and were willing to spend up to $27 million on Moncada, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

While that’s a great thing for Sox fans to hear, it also makes you wonder because Moncada’s projected positions are second base, third base, or outfield. As much depth as he provides, he also creates problems.

Dustin Pedroia, former American League MVP and resident second baseman, has a contract that runs until 2022. Pablo Sandoval’s deal stretches to 2021, and he’s supposed to man the hot corner. In fact, those two players are two highest-paid players on Boston’s roster.

Two of Boston’s top prospects – Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts – are infielders. The former is a shortstop which has been surrounded with talk that he’ll move to third base. The other is a highly-regarded second basemen who has been forced to play center field since he broke into the majors last May.

Betts is just one member of a crowded outfield.

Hanley Ramirez, the 31-year-old who signed essentially a 5-year contract this off-season, will occupy left field. Castillo will most-likely play center field.

Shane Victorino is coming off an injury-plagued 2014 and entering the last year of his contract.

Allen Craig, acquired in the John Lackey trade last summer, is a suitable bench bat, but is most effective defensively in the outfield.

Jackie Bradley, Jr., hurt his stock as a can’t-miss prospect last season. His defense was as-good-as-promised, but he struck out 121 times in 127 games and hit .198 on the season.

Daniel Nava and Brock Holt are two filler options who played well when the Sox needed them after injuries forced the team to look to the farm system.

With that log-jam, the Red Sox can do a few things.

This Moncada signing does a few things, like making Betts immediately expendable.

The Sox have been publicly infatuated with Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels, but the asking price of Rueben Amaro Jr., Philadelphia’s GM, has included one of Boston’s top-two prospects (Betts or Bogaerts). With a re-stock at Betts’ infield position – he’s a natural second baseman – and outfield depth, there’s no reason for the Sox to hang onto him.

Furthermore, Boston is planning for life post-Mike Napoli, the team’s current first baseman. Napoli’s contract – $16 million annually – runs out this year. An aging, portly Sandoval could switch across the diamond to first base, in which case Moncada could step in at third next year. The Sox would have a long-term solution on the left side of the infield in Moncada and Bogaerts.

The reduced stress on Sandoval’s body would help his body age more gracefully and – the Sox hope – prolong his power production.

But as for now, Boston has more assets than it knows what to do with.

Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York as a freshman at Syracuse University. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and using the word “wicked” as an adjective. He’s not a fan of purposefully misspelt business names (“Kathy’s Kut & Kurl”) or grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at sam.fortier@yahoo.com. 

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