For the last few months, Yoan Moncada has been being bandied around as the next future Cuban star. The only issue has been whether the 19-year-old would be able to sign this off-season.
Friday night, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control notified Moncada's agent that the switch-hitting infielder would be "generally licensed as an unblocked national" which should clear one of the biggest obstacles to him being signed. MLB typically requires OFAC clearance before foreign players are eligible to negotiate contracts with teams.
Here's where the Brewers come into play: Somewhat surprisingly, Milwaukee is among those teams which have had private workouts with Moncada. Not a scout attending a public showcase, but a private workout just for the team.
Because Moncada is under 23 and has not played professionally for at least five seasons, he is still required to be signed within the international bonus pools allotted to teams. The good news there is that he would come cheaper and would not be seeing a Jose Abreu-type deal. The bad news is the Brewers have used nearly all of their budget on Gilbert Lara this signing period.
That doesn't mean the Brewers' can't sign Moncada, but it means there would be punishments if they did. Following a trade to pick up a bonus slot from the Athletics, the Brewers had about $2.95 million to spend internationally. Lara cost about $3.1 million alone, already putting the Brewers in a range where they must pay 75% fines on their overages though perhaps not yet to the point where they face restrictions on the amount they can spend on individual players next year.
If -- and it's a big if -- the Brewers try to sign Moncada, that would likely put them while into the 15% overage range where they would then have "100 percent tax on the pool overage [and] won't be allowed to sign a player for more than $250,000 during the [next] signing period." Basically, the Brewers would be giving up millions of dollars in fines while crippling their international signings next year.
The Brewers are the kind of team who are willing to give up future assets if they deem it worthwhile, though -- see signing Kyle Lohse and giving up a first round pick. Moncada might well be worthwhile: Many are comparing him to Dodgers star Yasiel Puig and top Cubs prospect Jorge Soler. Baseball America calls Moncada better than recent big Cuban signings Yasmany Tomas (who got $68 million from the Diamondbacks) and Rusney Castillo ($72 million from the Red Sox).
After destroying 16 & 18 and under leagues, Moncada hit 273/.365/.406 in 195 plate appearances in the Cuban league this past season. While not necessarily eye-popping numbers for a top prospect from the island, he did that as an 18-year-old which makes it pretty darned crazy.
Moncada typically plays second base, but has also seen some time in the outfield. He's fast as hell, has good power potential, has a good arm and is a solid fielder. He's a five-tool talent, though not all believe he can come close to the hype.
The odds on the Brewers actually signing Moncada, though? Probably pretty close to zilch. But we can't rule it out -- as noted above, the Brewers are willing to give up future assets for players they deem worthwhile. They also made a hard push and fell just short of Jose Abreu. They've had a renewed interest in international signings. And they don't make a lot of noise when they're on the verge of making a move.
The Yankees are, as usual, the frontrunner when it comes to signing Moncada. They, along with the Rays, Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Angels all have an advantage in that they have already exceeded the maximum overage on bonus pools and can thus sign Moncada with little apprehension of future punishment. With the Yankees in dire need of some new infielders, Moncada would fit in well there after a little minor league polishing.
Hey, though, maybe the Brewers have another splash left in them? It's almost certain they won't, but they're at least looking.