Source: Red Sox land Cuban prospect Moncada for $31.5M
By Jesse Sanchez
Cuban top infield prospect Yoan Moncada has agreed to a record-setting bonus with the Red Sox, according to an industry source.
The agreement is pending a physical, which is scheduled to take place this week. The club has not confirmed the deal, which is worth $31.5 million -- a figure that smashes the $8.27 million bonus record for an international amateur under the current signing guidelines, which was given to right-hander Yoan Lopez by the D-backs in January.
It is believed Moncada considered offers from five teams before choosing Boston. He worked out privately for the Brewers, Cubs, D-backs, Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Rangers, Rays, Tigers and Yankees during the past six weeks, according to industry sources.
"There's really nothing to fill you in [on]," Red Sox manager John Farrell said at the team's training camp in Fort Myers, Fla. "I'm aware of the reports and the story that's been broken but there's nothing official to announce. I know [general manager] Ben [Cherington] and ownership will be talking to everyone here over the coming days [at the annual spring news conference]. But as of now, there's really nothing else to say about it."
Cherington didn't confirm the signing, but spoke about Moncada in general terms in a television interview with Comcast SportsNet New England that was set to air Monday night.
"He's a very talented young man," Cherington told CSNNE. "You can tell from reading reports there's been a lot of interest in him. We do have interest in him, so we'll see what happens. We're always looking to add talent to the organization. And we have to be aggressive and open-minded about how we do that."
Because he is not yet 23 years old and did not play in a Cuban professional league for at least five seasons, Moncada is subject to Major League Baseball's international signing guidelines, under which each team is allotted $700,000 and an additional bonus pool based on the team's record the previous year to be used during the international signing period. The current period started July 2 and ends on June 15.
According to those guidelines, clubs are penalized during the upcoming 2015-16 signing period if they exceed their bonus pools by certain amounts. The Red Sox had already exceeded their bonus pool before this signing and been given the maximum penalty. It's a severe measure that includes a 100-percent tax on their pool overage and prohibits them from signing any pool-eligible player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods. Including the penalty for exceeding their bonus pool, Moncada's deal will cost the Red Sox $63 million -- the bonus plus the penalty.
The Red Sox have until July 15 to pay the overage tax and up to three years to pay Moncada's bonus.
It's been quite a journey for Moncada. The teenager -- who plays second base, shortstop and third base -- starred for Cuba's top team of 15- and 16-year-olds, and he made a name for himself at the U-16 IBAF World Baseball Championships in Mexico.
Moncada made his debut for Cienfuegos in Cuba's Serie Nacional at age 17 and hit .277 during parts of two seasons. He played alongside White Sox slugger Jose Abreu and Dodgers infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena. Moncada was also teammates with Abreu, Arruebarrena and other notable players like Yulieski Gourriel, Alfredo Despaigne and Jose Miguel Fernandez on Cuba's national team during the 2013 World Port Tournament in the Netherlands. Raisel Iglesias, who signed a seven-year, $27 million deal with the Reds last June, was also one of Moncada's teammates.
Moncada was on Cuba's preliminary roster for the 2017 World Baseball Classic. His story is unique. While many Cuban players are known to leave the island in late-night escapes or defect from the national team during an international tournament, the 6-foot, 210-pound Moncada was granted his release from the Cienfuegos team last year and was later cleared by Cuba's National Baseball Commission. He was granted a visa and a passport by the Cuban government, and he left on an airplane to an unidentified Central American country last summer, where he trained for months before joining agent David Hastings in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area late last year.
Moncada's first showcase for all Major League teams was held Nov. 12 in Guatemala. The private showcases began a few weeks later.
After months of waiting, the infielder became available as as a free agent on Feb. 3 after MLB met with the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for clarification regarding new guidelines for a general license for an unblocked Cuban national.
MLB now requires a sworn statement that says a Cuban player is in compliance with Section 515.05 of Cuban Assets Control Regulations in order to sign with a Major League team. It had been MLB's policy to require a specific license for unblocking from OFAC before it allowed a Cuban national to enter into an agreement with a team.
Moncada met the new general license requirements and will be the first to sign under the new guidelines.
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.