Missing on Moncada
By Ethan Witte
On Monday, the Boston Red Sox signed the latest Cuban phenom, 19 year-old Yoan Moncada, to a deal that reportedly includes a $31.5 million signing bonus. Moncada is regarded by many as a five tool talent, a player worth that kind of financial investment, regardless of where he came from.
According to the international signing rules, Boston will now be assessed a 100% tax on the signing bonus. From the Bosox perspective, this actually makes him a $63 million investment. Boston is also now restricted from making any international free agent an offer in excess of $300,000 for the next two signing periods.
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This marks the second highly regarded Cuban prospect the Phillies have appeared to pass on this offseason. Earlier this winter they missed out on Yasmany Tomas, who eventually landed a six-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Many fans were extremely upset at the time of the Tomas signing, as the Phillies were considered by many to be favorites to sign the young Cuban slugger. The Moncada signing is more a disappointing shake of the head. Why aren’t the Phillies signing guy like this, when young, dynamic, blue-chip talent is what they need?
At first blush, I tend to agree. Most people think that while Moncada will need some minor league seasoning before he comes up to the majors, he will be a force when he ultimately arrives.
Had the Phillies signed him, he would have been arriving just as their rebuild was kicking into gear. His natural talent would have been a major boost both to the current minor league system and to the future talent crop the team will field, possibly by as early as 2016.
It would have been nice to see J.P. Crawford and Moncada forming the new Rollins-Utley duo for the next generation of Phillies fans. Alas, it was not meant to be. Is that a bad thing? Well, yes and no.
Yes it’s bad, because Moncada was a major talent that the team might have added. Acquiring talent is something every major league team looks to do, especially one as in dire need of young talent as the Phillies.
Seeing the farm system consistently ranked in the bottom third by major industry talent evaluators shows how poorly they regard the current depth of Phillies prospect talent. Moncada alone could have boosted them up into the next tier.
It’s not as if the organization is afraid of Cuban players. They have already dipped their toes in the Cuban waters when they signed pitcher Miguel Gonzalez, so they are no stranger to the current tide of players trickling off of the island. However, signing Moncada would appear to go against what they are trying to accomplish in the grander scheme.
Writer Matt Winkleman, over at philliesminorthoughts.com, penned an article the other day that seems to show exactly why the Phillies didn’t sign Moncada. While the whole article is worth a read (as is anything he writes), the one thing that really stands out is this quote which he uses from a chat conducted by Kiley McDaniel, a prospect writer with Fangraphs:
"Comment from Guest:How big are the Phillies going on July 2nd?Kiley McDaniel: Potentially very big."
If the Phillies are planning on spending big and going over their international spending limits on July 2nd, that means they have their eyes on multiple players who they feel will also be beneficial to their system.
The organizational scouts have identified players that could pay off in much the same way that Moncada would, infusing the system with a greater volume of talent. This would help uplift the Phillies organization as a whole more than one super prospect could.
Signing Moncada now would mean they are unable to sign these prospects without having to pay the same 100% penalty the Red Sox are about to pay out. Not even the new infusion of Comcast television money would have been worth that cost.
Apparently, the Phillies aren’t the only team thinking in these terms, either.
If the deep-pocketed Dodgers weren’t going to sign Moncada because of what July 2nd might still yield in terms of talent, then I believe that what the Phillies did by passing on him was wise. Don’t judge the team just yet, at least not until we see what their plans are come July. Then, hopefully we will see what their master plan was all along.