It was hard to believe the Brewers were ever a true contender to sign Yoan Moncada, though there were reports all over the past couple months that the team was interested. As expected, however, Moncada will not be a Brewer: This morning, it was announced the talented Cuban infielder had agreed to a deal with the Red Sox.
Moncada, who is still just 19 years old, will receive a $31.5 million bonus to sign with Boston. Because of his age and inexperience, he fell within the international signing pools meaning the Red Sox will face a 100% fine on his contract, bringing their total expenditure to $63 million.
It's difficult to be too upset the Brewers didn't go up that high, as exciting as it would have been. Moncada is a potential five-tool player, a switch hitter, and an infielder. All of that would be great for the Brewers -- and most other teams. He's among the most well-regarded talents to ever come out of Cuba. But he's just 19, and is likely two years away from the majors, and is already commanding a $60+ million commitment from a team.
In no way can Moncada be considered a sure thing. If the Brewers were to have went up to that price range, they would be taking an enormous risk and would be paying a lot of money to a player who likely wouldn't be able to perform in the majors for the first couple years of his deal. Milwaukee has few long-term commitments and could handle that contract, but it would hinder their ability to compete if he flamed out. The Brewers can handle $100+ million payrolls, but that doesn't mean they can throw money around like the Dodgers and Yankees. They still have to be smart about dishing out big contracts.
But there's an argument to be made that the Brewers' need to take risks like these, too. A popular complaint among some fans is that the team is happy with being a .500 squad (which, look how far our complaints have come since the early 2000s!). Moncada would be a boom or bust move -- but it would indicate the Brewers are willing to take a big risk in an effort to potentially be a perennial World Series contender. There are flaws in that thinking, in my opinion, but there is some valid reasoning in there.
Mostly, I'm just happy the Brewers were at least 'in' on Moncada. Not heavily, of course, but nearly every article about him mentioned the Brewers as a darkhorse candidate to sign him. Again, it's a positive sign for Milwaukee: Previously, they had rarely seemed to scout internationally and certainly would never have been mentioned as a candidate for a player such as Moncada.
In the last three years, however, they've set franchise records multiple times for international signing bonuses with players like Gilbert Lara and Nicolas Pierre, they're top prospect (Orlando Arcia) was an international signee, arguably their top pitcher (Wily Peralta) was an international signee, they offered Jose Abreu $64 million and now they're scouting and being mentioned as contenders to sign top, top international talent.
If nothing else, it would have been exciting if the Brewers had signed Moncada. They didn't, though, and that's OK because we have to trust that the Brewers knew what they could afford from a risk/reward standpoint. It's important that the Brewers were even in the race, though, even if that race was a walk/run and the Brewers chose the walking route while the Yankees and Red Sox sprinted. Five or ten years ago, the Brewers wouldn't have bothered showing up to the starting line.
You can wish the Brewers had made a big, bold expensive move or you can be glad they didn't take a $60 million risk. In Yoan Moncada's case, the team chose the latter. But they had the flexibility to chose for themselves rather than resign themselves to not being able to afford Moncada. And that bodes well for the future.