Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada has been the talk of the international free agent market all winter. The 19 year old switch hitter would likely be the number one draft pick in 2015 were he eligible, but it now appears as though Moncada is close to choosing a record breaking offer to accept. According to his agent, Moncada will reportedly field offers over the next two weeks, and he should be prepared to accept an offer no later than February 23rd.
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Several teams have held workouts for the young infielder, and conventional wisdom would give the large market Red Sox, Yankees, or Dodgers the best chance to sign Moncada. He is expected to command a bonus somewhere between $30-$40 mil, which would shatter the current record bonus of $8.27 mil that the Diamondbacks gave Yoan Lopez earlier this offseason. MLB rules dictate that any team that spends more than 15% of their international bonus pool allotment is subject to 100% penalties on the overage, which further complicates the fiscal commitment for Moncada. That means that any team that signs him will have to nearly double their committment to cover the penaties. While a team can pay the bonus out over a period of three years, it has only one month after the June 15th signing deadline to pay a lump sum to the MLB to cover the penalty. The team that signs Moncada will be unable to sign any pool eligible players for the next two signing periods.
The Milwaukee Brewers are among several teams that have ramped up their interest in Moncada, holding a private workout for him last month. A potential five-tool player, Ben Badler of Baseball America projects that Moncada will rank somewhere between the #7 and #12 prospect in all of baseball. While his fielding grades out at a 50 according to an MLB.com report, all his other tools are plus or better. Given the Brewers dearth of strong third base prospects within their system, their interest in Moncada is not surprising. The Brewers have been very active on the international free agent market in recent years; they gave Gilbert Lara over $3 mil last year and offered Jose Abreu a deal in excess of $60 mil from Milwaukee before he signed with the White Sox.
While it’s nice to dream about Milwaukee adding a once-in-a-generation type talent to their system by signing Yoan Moncada, it’s very unlikely to happen. The team would likely need to pay out close to $30 mil in the middle of the season to cover the penalties they would incur by signing Moncada, which for a small market team like Milwaukee that has cut payroll this winter is a tough proposition. It would also severely handcuff the team financially should they need to make an addition in season as they attempt to make a push for the playoffs. GM Doug Melvin has been non-committal about the issue, acknowledging that he has yet to discuss making an offer with owner Mark Attanasio.
"(Y)ou see the other teams that are involved. Again, when you’re in negotiations, you don’t want to tip your hand."
While it’s not an outright no, Melvin at least admits that the market for the Yoan Moncada will be very crowded. Given the Brewers limited financial resources comparatively, I wouldn’t expect Yoan Moncada to be signing with the Brewers anytime soon.