Photo: Courtesy The Greedy Pinstripes
Back in the end of June last season, Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada left his home country in hopes of filing for MLB free agency. At just 19 years of age, Moncada immediately became an interest for many teams, with the ability to build and groom him in their system. As a former teammate of both Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox) and Erisbel Arruebarrena (Los Angeles Dodgers), Moncada already has ties to the big leagues. And, with the hype surrounding the young star's ability on the field, the deal for Cuban's latest project may be one of the largest ever.
If you haven't become completely exhausted by talks of rebuild, you haven't been paying much attention. It has become abundantly clear that the Phillies have little to no chance at competing in either of the next two seasons. That is precisely why Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd have been sent off, and why the team is desperately trying to trade both Jonathan Papelbon and Cole Hamels. Young talent is the ground floor off which teams can build toward a better future, and thus far, Ruben Amaro Jr. has done an admirable job of acquiring said talent, trading for three new members of the Phillies top ten prospects.
However, if we are going to talk young talent, you can't look much further than Yoan Moncada. Earlier this offseason, the team was rumored to be the front-runner for Yosmany Tomas, a power-hitting outfielder that may have been a boost toward another NL East run in a few seasons. Tomas ended up with the Arizona Diamondbacks, with money confusingly being Amaro's reason for not signing the young player. Could that money have been being built up toward an even bigger project?
Because he is so young and has a lack of professional experience, Moncada's decision to sign before or after the July 2nd deadline will determine the big names involved. Should he sign prior to that date, the Yankees and Red Sox will have limited time to try to lure him, as their bonus pool penalties will kick in. If he signs after, the Rangers and Cubs are back in the mix, as their penalties wil come off the books. This opens the door even more for the Phillies to make a bigger splash on the now twenty year old infielder. Before getting into where the team may end up following a Moncada signing, let's take a look at the buzz surrounding the player.
Back in November, the day after Moncada had a workout in front of scouts from all thirty teams, Kiley McDaniel put together an informative piece covering many aspects of the Cuban's talents. Body size speaking, Moncada closely resembles the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig. At over 200 pounds and over six feet tall, the switch hitter has an already large presence, with plenty of room to grow. Against BP pitching, scouts saw above average ability in terms of bat speed, power, and overall speed. They also saw a bit of a better swing from the left-handed batter's box, and enough fielding talent and arm power to move to several positions, although second base, third base, and center field seem to be the most prolific options. Yoan has received comparisons to the Cubs' Jorge Soler, and Baseball America's Ben Badler claims Moncada has the chance to be a "franchise player" in the coming years. The talent is certainly there.
Looking into the money, let me first point out that it is a confusing scenario. McDaniel's article or a look at Yoan Moncada on MLBTradeRumors.com are the best ways to get the most clear cut information. Essentially, it all comes down to timing for some teams. Despite having already been declared a free agent, Moncada has to wait to be cleared by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control. When that occurs could determine who strikes first, but either way, the Phillies could, and should, be heavily involved.
Based on the rules of MLB's bonus pools, Moncada will receive a large signing bonus when he does eventually sign. The estimated $30-40 million deal will become close to $80 million when the taxes and penalties are considered. He will also likely receive a seven year deal, but it could go longer when negotiations intensify. So, let's say the Phillies make the leap and sign Moncada for eight seasons. Assuming the first year is spent in the minor leagues, it primes the Cuban to make his major league debut in 2017, just in time for the team's return to contention. But will the Phillies really be prepared by then?
Without delving too deep into possibilities, take a look at the free agencies in the next two seasons (2016, 2017). Following the 2015 season, names like David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, and Doug Fister are all set to hit the free agent market. Assuming the Phillies hang on to Cole Hamels and sign one of those guys, a rotation headed by Hamels, Price/Zimmermann/Fister, and Cliff Lee (depending on injuries and options and my high hopes) becomes quite formidable. Couple that with young names like Aaron Nola, and you have a steady starting five.
Meanwhile, plenty of offensive players are due to hit free agency in those years, including Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Carlos Gomez, and Jonathan Lucroy. Nothing is sure, as each of these guys could sign extensions with their current clubs. However, the possibility of one or two of those outfielders, plus a catcher and a number two starting pitcher signing in those next few seasons is real, and could lead to some drastic changes.
Thus far, Mocada has had private workouts with a couple of teams, including the San Francisco Giants. They, along with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Miami Marlins, have jumped up as favorites for his services. However, it sounds as the signing will not take place until the season is underway, leaving room for several more teams to get involved.
If you haven't taken noticed, there are a ton of "if's" regarding the Phillies' current situation. The next couple of seasons are going to be less-than-exciting, to say the least. But, bringing in the talents of Yoan Moncada could be the big jump the organization takes toward a return to their former glory. With the minor league system slowly regaining some of its respect, and the idea of signing a huge Cuban star, perhaps fans have more to be excited about than previously believed.
Andrew Gillen, Managing Editor of Philliedelphia.com