Does Yoan Moncada Make Sense for the Blue Jays


The infield market got a lot more interesting this week with the news that top young Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada will be hosting a showcase for major league evaluators on November 12th. Representatives from all 30 major league teams are expected to attend the showcase, but the burning question for fans north of the 49th is whether or not signing Moncada makes any sense for the Blue Jays.

The 19-year-old Moncada certainly has an intriguing set of talents. Like many Cuban prospects, the scouting report on him is thin but according to Ben Badler of Baseball America the switch-hitting teenager has shown he has the ability to hit for average and get on base at a decent rate. During this past season in Cuba’s storied Serie Naciona, Moncada hit .273/.365/.406 in 195 plate appearances, which is impressive when you consider he did so as an 18-year-old. Moncada also has plenty of speed to burn, as he demonstrated when he out-ran recent Red Sox signee Rusney Castillo during an All-Star skills competition in Cuba. Overall Moncada is expected to have more potential than some of his recently signed countrymen, including Castillo, and some have even gone as far as to compare him to Jorge Soler and Yasiel Puig at the same age.

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Also unlike some of his recently signed countrymen, Moncada has not played five seasons in the Serie Naciona and therefore will be subject to MLB rules regarding international bonus pools. This poses a difficult situation for many teams interested in signing Moncada, since a player of his caliber expects to command a large contract that will surely go beyond a team’s bonus pool limit. As Kiley McDaniel explained at Fangraphs, this could be both a disadvantage and an advantage in regards to the Blue Jays’ chances of signing him. If Moncada is declares free agency between now and July 2nd, 2015, both the Red Sox and the Yankees have an advantage in signing him as they have already gone over their pool amount and paid the penalty this season. Other teams that are under their pool would want their year to go over their pool to also include a crop of other players to make up for the two-year penalty imposed by MLB for going over their spending limit. On the other hand, if Moncada becomes a free agent any time between July 2nd, 2015 and 2017, neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees could bid on him because of the two-year penalty imposed on them. In this situation, the Blue Jays could organize their international spending to combine three years worth of other signings into one year while also shelling out for Moncada’s undoubtedly large upcoming contract.

However, the question still remains. Does spending a fortune on Moncada and paying the penalty that will come with doing so make sense for the Blue Jays? While no one can be entirely sure until scouts have observed his showcase, a quick look at Jays’ minor league infield depth would seem to suggest that he would be a smart investment. The Jays have an intriguing middle infield prospect in Franklin Barreto, but beyond that the depth is thin. Moncada has spent time at third base, second base, and shortstop during his young career. Although the club also has a glaring hole at second at the major league level, Moncada would have to be viewed as a long-term solution as opposed to a short-term fix.

If the club is more concerned with patching their hole at second for the upcoming season (which they should be), more immediate options such as Hector Olivera or even Jed Lowrie would make sense on the market. That doesn’t mean the Jays should rule out Moncada either though. It took nearly three seasons for Soler to reach the big leagues for the Cubs, so if Moncada was projected along a similar trajectory the Jays could still sign a stopgap second baseman until he is ready to take the mantle up for himself. There is no doubt that signing him would go a long way to rebuilding their minor league infield depth and they could look to pair him up with Barreto for many seasons to come. The only question now is if ownership is committed to spending what it will cost to obtain such an improvement.