The Boston Red Sox made a huge splash earlier this week announcing the signing of 19-year-old Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada. The young shortstop will get $31.5 million, for an undisclosed number of years. The Red Sox outbid several clubs, including their arch-rivals, the New York Yankees, and the big spenders of the 2014-2015 offseason, the San Diego Padres. Moncada is just the first in a wave of new Cuban baseball players expected to sign in the wake of the U.S. government normalization of relations with Cuba after more than 50 years.
Moncada was the first player to leave Cuba with permission from the government in June of 2014. After waiting in limbo in Guatemala for almost a full year, Moncada was pursued relentlessly after being declared eligible by Major League Baseball on February 3rd.
While the contract might not seem like much for the services of a fledgling superstar, the Red Sox also have to pay $31.5 million in penalties to MLB and now can’t spend more than $300,000 in signing bonuses for international players until July 2nd of 2017. Boston also splurged on fellow Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo back in August, inking the 27-year-old to a six-year $72 million deal.
Moncada will begin his major league career in the minors. In recent years fellow Cubans Aroldis Chapman, flame-throwing closer for the Cincinnati Reds who defected in 2009 at the age of 21, and Yasiel Puig, star outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers who defected from Cuba in 2011 at 20 years of age, started out in the minors because of their young age. Moncada will have a lot of the same hype surrounding both these super stars, and it will be interesting to see how well he transitions to major league play.
Another point of interest for Moncada is his position. A natural shortstop, the young infielder also has some experience playing both third base and second base. Unfortunately for him, all three infield positions may be locked up for a long time.
Red Sox captain Dustin Pedroia currently occupies second base; key free agent Pablo Sandoval occupies third base, and shortstop appears to be blocked as well by top prospect Xander Bogaerts. Would Boston consider changing his position to the outfield? Right now Boston has an abundance of outfielders but there are some question marks there. Thankfully, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, does not have answer these questions immediately because on Moncada’s youth.
Many baseball reporters had pegged the Yankees or Dodgers as the favorites to land Moncada before his decision Monday. According to Yahoo! Sports, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman was willing to pay whatever price it took to land Moncada but Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner would not allow him to do so. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports the Yankees offered Moncada $25 million with a willingness to go up to $27 million. The Dodgers reportedly met with Moncada but did not make an offer, while the dark horse Padres made an offer similar to the Yankees.
Moncada looks to be the next big thing. Whether it’s at shortstop is another story. But the young phenom leads a wave of young Cuban players about to wash ashore in America.