Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – The casual baseball fan will tell you
that right-hander James Shields is the best remaining free agent available.
They’d be wrong though.
The most sought after player on the market became available to everyone on
Tuesday, as Major League Baseball eased up on its rules with regards to Cuban
ballplayers and opened the doors for an all-out bidding war for 19-year-old
infielder Yoan Moncada.
Cuban players had needed to obtain specific unblocking license from the Office
of Foreign Assets Control before they were to enter into an agreement with a
But given the new relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, MLB took action and
distributed a memo to teams stating that players who present sworn affidavits
to it stating they are residents of another country, have no intention of
returning to Cuba and are not Cuban government officials can sign with major
league teams immediately.
Moncada, who has taken up residence in Guatemala, could fetch a deal close to
$40 million. However, since he is under 23 years of age and considered an
amateur, he is still subject to the international signing guidelines.
Basically how that works is that each team is allotted a $700,000 base and a
bonus pool based on the team’s record in 2013 for the international signing
period, which started on July 2 and ends on June 15.
Now, of course, teams have gone over their bonus pools and teams like the New
York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have actually gone over by more than 15-
percent, putting them in the maximum penalty range for the upcoming 2015-16
More than likely, though, any team that goes after Moncada is going to exceed
The penalty will include a 100 percent tax on their pool, meaning, of course,
that a potential Moncada investment could total close to $80 million.
But, don’t think for a second that means teams will stay away from a player
like Moncada, who most observers think will become one of the best prospects
in baseball the minute he puts his name on the dotted line.
After making a name for himself by dominating the 16-and-under and 18-and-
under leagues in Cuba, Moncada debuted for Cienfuegos in Cuba’s Serie Nacional
at age 17 and hit .277 during parts of two seasons. He’s a switch-hitting
middle infielder – probably more of a second baseman – who hits for average,
has power, above-average runner, good arm.
Still, some feel the 6-foot, 210-pounder’s future may be at third base.
Given the high price tag you can probably already guess who will be amongst
the bidders. In addition to the Yankees and Red Sox, Moncada has also
held private workouts for the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Texas
Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers.
And you can’t count out the Dodgers, either, although, more than half the
league will take interest now that he is freely available. That’s how good
some people view him.
Quite simply, everyone will be in on him.
Speaking of Shields, he is supposedly close to finding a team and could be
under contract by the end of the week. Where he is going, though, is anyone’s
The St. Louis Cardinals have been the team most recently identified with him.
Shields was believed to be in the market for a 5-year, $125 million deal. That
probably won’t happen now, as he may have to settle for a 3- or 4-year deal in
the $80 million range.
Shields has started 33 or 34 games for seven straight seasons and has never
been injured. Maybe he rolls the dice and signs a monster 1-year deal and does
this all again next winter?