Penalties Incurred From Moncada Signing Not Very Significant

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Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Yoan Moncada is on the market, the Dodgers are a favorite to sign Yoan Moncada, Yoan Moncada is going to be expensive. By now you’ve heard about the Cuban defector

This is all very exciting news, given that he could be a favorite to open 2016 at the hot corner if Uribe walks or retires. He could be a favorite to open 2016 at the keystone if Kendrick walks, he could be a favorite to open 2016 at SS if Rollins walks or retires and Seager is either not ready or really a third baseman immediately.

So there appear to be a couple of downsides to signing the most hyped Cuban teenager ever (even more than Cubs slugger Jorge Soler), that’s the simple monetary risk. We’ve seen the Dodgers splurge 10 million dollars on Brett Anderson, we’ve seen the Dodgers pay guys to “not exist”, we’ve seen the Dodgers pay 5 million to keep a useful no hit utility guy around. And this is with the frugal nerds of Wall Street ruining this damn franchise.

Anyhoo, they don’t care, they don’t care about money, and it would seem that they wouldn’t care about money in a Moncada signing if they think he’s going to be a star at either Third Base, ShortStop, or Second Base. It’s always a risk, playing with money, but the only reason the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers are so closely linked with the Cuban defector is primarily their financial might and the ability to take on a 80+ million dollar fiancial risk on a whim.

The other reason that a Yoan Moncada signing will be tricky is closely linked to actual baseball reasons! Stacie mentioned the concerns initially, and they’re legitimate. According to the regulations that complicate a Moncada signing in the first place, a team that goes over the amount allotted to them starting July 2nd will have to pay significant overages on the signees. We saw this with the Yankees basically taking up the entirety of the top 30 this past signing period. Since they were given a $2,193,100 allotment initially, they had to pay 100% tax overages on the players they signed above that figure.

Since most teams have blown away their international bonuses (The Dodgers started at $1,963,800, $700,000 of which is still remaining before they incur the most severe penalties), and since Moncada’s market is going to hit somewhere between 30-40 million dollars up front (double that number for the total amount paid), the penalties will be significant.

Don’t get confused though, the penalty isn’t just more money on top of money, the penalties are significant in that a team cannot sign an international player for the next 2 signing periods that would exceed $300,000 dollars. This is a tiny dollar figure, given that most teams have one or two million dollar prospects come out of the signing period. Lucas Tirado was given an even 1 million dollar bonus, Romer Cuadrado was given $750,000, Alberto Estrella was given $600,000, none of these names would be with the Dodgers if the incurred penalties were in place.

So the question then becomes “quality” or “quantity”. The Rangers got Jurickson Profar, the Marlins got Miguel Cabrera the Cardinals had Oscar Taveras, super prospects/all stars come out of this period all the time. Carlos Martinez was a 16 year old signee by the Cardinals, Kenley Jansen was signed out of Curacao as a 16 year old, Miguel Sano signed with the Twins in 2009, good players develop most years.

But lets keep the kind of prospects kids we’re dealing with in perspective. These players are 16 years old. I talked about Julio Urias and how gosh darn young he is, he’s about as advanced as a prospect becomes from the international signing period. It’s not uncommon for a player to sign, sit out the remainder of the regular season, begin his professional career the following season in rookie ball, and then struggle immensely. For example, Eloy Jimenez was the biggest name that signed during the 2013 international signing period. Jimenez got an obscene 2.8 million dollars as a 16 year old. Eloy turned 17 years old in November of 2013, began his pro career in 2014 and OPS’d at .635 in his first 164 PA’s of rookie ball with a sub .300 OBP. According to fangraphs, Jimenez’s risk factor sits at 4 (5 being the highest), and his tools at present value rank 20/20/50/45/50 in terms of his hit/power/speed/field/arm. Those obviously project to be better, but to illustrate the volatility of these prospects, i’ll leave them as is. Lucas Tirado hit .177 in his first taste of rookie ball at age 18 after signing for 1 million dollars, the players are simply volatile by definition.

If you want to laugh for a second, take a look at the international signees from 2008. One can find good prospects in any period, but the top dollar signees are often very disappointing. Michael Ynoa was the most notorious international signee ever by the A’s. He’s now a relief prospect with the White Sox. The rest of the names on that list are dismal too: Rafael Rodriguez, Yorman Rodriguez, Adys Portillo Luis Domoromo, Roberto De La Cruz, Julio Morban, Alvaro Aristy all signed for over 1 million dollars. All of those names relatively “busted”

Look at the July 2nd signees that received the biggest amount of money ever, this is a great post showing it and there are some incredible names on there. There’s one all time great player in Miguel Cabrera (signed in 1999 [!!!]), there’s good prospects in Gaby Sanchez, Luis Sardinas, there’s a current top 10 prospect in Miguel Sano, there’s a bunch of former/failed prospects who need time in the majors to really make a distinction, starting with Jesus Montero, there’s the old friends like Joel Guzman (!), and Wily Aybar (!), and a ton of prospects that never even made the big leagues.

For most of these players the reason they didn’t become Miguel Cabrera is simple, they never filled out, they were never able to overcome their inherent shortcomings, or, you know, they were 16 freaking years old when this happened. That post is particularly effective because 2008 is one of the most recent years where we can expect an impact from the prospects, and you’ll see that many of them fail, even moreso than the top American draft prospects.

So much pressure is put on these guys and we forget that they’re supposed to be Sophomores in High School. Most of the players listed never even make an impact on prospect lists let alone the major leagues. If you pick up a regular through the July 2nd signings, you’re way ahead of the curve.

So why is this significant for Moncada and why are the concerns about giving up bonus pool money mostly moot?

Well Jurickson Profar and Oscar Taveras are basically the best case scenario for the recent July 2nd signees. I’m speaking in terms of production, not necessarily prospect comps. I’d include Cabrera but he was obviously signed WAY back in 1999. So Taveras was signed by the Cardinals in 2008, quickly shot up the minor league ladder and by 2014 (5 years after him beginning pro ball) he was a top 3 prospect in baseball and made the major leagues. We know about the tragedy that happened to Taveras, but he was one of the better Dominican prospects we’ve ever seen and that’s something to be proud of.

Profar another best case scenario, considered the top prospect in all of minor league baseball back in 2013, he was signed back in 2009 as a 16 year old, Jurickson still hasn’t made an impact in the big leagues, but if healthy he should be a regular type player and the Rangers are already ahead in his signing because of the relative nature that most July 2nd prospects carry.

These two are the most recent successes of the July 2nd system, they overcame the risks, and still haven’t made an impact in the big leagues (unfortunately Taveras never will). You know that Moncada is different. You know that while Moncada hasn’t really played professionally, he really has. You know that as an 18 year old facing pitchers that are way older and mature than him, he hit .273/.365/.406. Don’t take those numbers as gospel that he’ll hit in the major leagues, but age matters a hell of a lot more for a hitter than it does for a pitcher, and even if Cuban Ball compares to the Cal League, or A ball, Moncada was able to hit those types of pitchers as an 18 year old. This is already promising. Moncada is 19 years old right now, meaning that he doesn’t have to go through the rigors of just learning how to play organized ball, he doesn’t have to adjust to live pitching like many Dominican Summer League prospect have to, because he’s been in tournaments around the world, facing the best the world has to offer.

When signing a high profile 16 year old prospect, the organization is accepting the possibility that they never make it out of A ball. What Moncada has in terms of risk is mostly monetary, he’s going to cost a TON of money and only a few franchises can afford him, which is fine. My ultimate point is because Moncada’s prospect star is already on the level of a Jurickson Profar or a Oscar Taveras -Ben Badler would rank him just behind Corey Seager and right around Miguel Sano in terms of top 10 prospects-, you’re essentially skipping a very difficult area of development for a July 2nd signee. That’s the incredible unknown that comes with giving a player his first taste of regular professional ball.

The list of Cuban players that could hit in Cuba and can hit in the United States is a good one. Soler, Puig, Abreu, Alonso, Morales, Alexei, (Guerrero is still projected to hit, as is Tomas). The guys who have been able to hit in Cuba and are scouted as good hitters generally are able to produce at an MLB level, we knew Hechavarria and Arruebarrena couldn’t hit, and the Viciedos and Betancourts of the world are bad, but the hit rate for Cuban players seems to be a bit higher than most, I believe it’s a part of the environment they’re in from a young age.

So the risks are there, financially he’s expensive, and you can’t really sign anyone of significance in the international arena (who are subject to the restrictions set out by MLB). But given that there is a small chance at best that there is a comparable talent on the international market, the Dodgers should throw lots of dollars at Yoan Moncada without much reservation.

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