Moncada worked out for Tigers in Lakeland
Add the Tigers to the growing list of teams with a level of interest in Cuban teenage talent Yoan Moncada. The team brought in the 19-year-old switch-hitting infielder for a workout last week in Lakeland.
Lynn Henning of the Detroit News first reported Sunday the Tigers had seen Moncada work out privately. MLB.com later confirmed the Tigers had brought him in to work out for team officials at the the Tigers’ Spring Training complex. Moncada also worked out for the Rays last week down the road at Tropicana Field.
Moncada had a showcase last month in Guatemala before scouts from most Major League clubs. Moncada established residency in the Central American country and has been heading to the states. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports Moncada has also worked out for the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Rangers and Brewers, with the Cubs, Phillies and Cardinals also interested.
With that much competition, the Tigers’ interest could simply be due diligence at this point, or it could be the prelude for a push depending on how far the bidding goes. A lot might depend on bigger-market teams’ involvement, if indeed they’re allowed to be involved.
Since Moncada is younger than 23 and didn’t play pro ball in Cuba, he’s subject to international signing guidelines, including the bonus restrictions each team is given. Each team gets a $700,000 base pool plus bonuses based on reverse order of finish the previous season. The Tigers had the sixth-lowest spending pool at $1,946,900, while the Astros had just over $5 million.
Fitting Moncada within what’s left of those pools isn’t likely to happen. The key is having money left to spend, and being allowed to spend it.
According to Sanchez, the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Angels all went over their spending limit far enough that they’re in the maximum penalty range for the next signing period, including a 100 percent tax on overage and a ban on signings over $300,000. The next period, however, begins in July. If Moncada signs before June 15, he still counts towards this period, and those teams can go further over their limit to sign him as long as they’re willing to pay the penalty.
The Tigers rarely make big-ticket signings on the international market. They were in the market for Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo last summer and Yoenis Cespedes a few years ago, but they qualified as pro free agents. Moncada’s talent level, however, makes him an exception. The Tigers would be subject to penalties if they signed Moncada, putting a cramp in their efforts to restock a farm system that has been thinned out by trades. The question is whether the impact of Moncada would be worth the lost flexibility in future years.
Moncada has been unblocked from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to sign with a club, but Major League Baseball is reportedly trying to clear up its policy on signing Cuban players in the wake of recent changes in U.S. relations with Cuba.