King: Yanks held third private workout for Yoan Moncada

(Dodgers Nation)
(Dodgers Nation)

For the second straight day, 19-year-old Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada was in Tampa for a private workout with the Yankees, reports George King. It was his second straight day at the complex and third private workout with the team overall. They first worked him out last month before bringing him back this week.

Here are some more details on this week’s workouts, courtesy of King:

On Thursday, for the second straight day, the Yankees held a private workout for the 19-year-old switch-hitter that was attended by club scouts, team officials and general partner Hank Steinbrenner, who is rarely seen around the team.

Wednesday night’s workout was held at George M. Steinbrenner Field under the lights. Moncada took ground balls at second and third and faced live minor league pitching. On Thursday the showcase was shifted to the minor league complex and conducted in daylight, and he again faced minor league hurlers.

King says the Yankees don’t want to pay Moncada the $30M to $50M bonus it will take to sign him, which seems like typical Yankees posturing. They always seem to say “we like him, but not at that price” whenever they really want someone.

Moncada’s agent David Hastings has said they hope to sign soon, perhaps by Monday, though that didn’t seem like a firm deadline. Whoever signs him is going to have to pay a 100% tax on the bonus. Steinbrenner being at yesterday’s workout seems to indicate ownership wants to see Moncada firsthand before giving the thumbs up to sign him. Either that or Hank had nothing better to do. Intrigue!

King: Yankees held second private workout for Yoan Moncada yesterday

(Bay Area Sports Guy)
(Bay Area Sports Guy)

1:01pm: Jon Heyman says Moncada is done with his private workouts and Hastings has begun fielding contract offers. “Dynamic, electric, explosive, robust talent. All thirty teams will have some degree of interest. The competition will be fierce for his services, no doubt,” said one scout to Heyman while cautioning “there are just enough holes to keep him in the .260 range.”

12:00pm: According to George King, the Yankees had Cuban wunderkind Yoan Moncada in Tampa for a second private workout late yesterday. Their first private workout was a month ago. King says the Yankees are leery of the money it’ll take to sign Moncada, but I think that’s just posturing. You don’t bring a guy back for a second workout if you’re not interested.

Last week David Hastings, Moncada’s representative, said he and his client hope to pick a new team relatively soon so Moncada can get to Spring Training. Hastings mentioned next Monday as a target date but it didn’t sound like a firm deadline. Moncada has already been declared a free agent by MLB and unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. He can sign at any moment.

By now you know the 19-year-old Moncada is considered a budding superstar, a switch-hitter with power and speed to go with strong defensive chops. King says the Yankees see Moncada as a second baseman long-term though there’s really no consensus about his future position. The consensus is basically “anywhere but pitcher, catcher, and shortstop.” Here’s some game footage of Moncada from an under-18 tournament in 2013.

“He would have to start at Single-A and that is a lot of money for somebody to begin at that level,’’ said an international scout to King. “If he was in the draft, he would be a first-round pick, but that’s a long way from that type of money for a 19-year-old.’’

Moncada’s bonus is expected to be in the $30M to $40M range — King says the Dodgers are willing to go to $40M, but I’ll believe it when I see it — and that will be taxed at 100% regardless of who signs him due to the international spending rules. Moncada’s a $60M to $80M investment, all up front. The Yankees are unable to sign an international player for more than $300,000 the next two signing periods due to last summer’s spending spree, so Moncada is their last chance to get a top talent for a while.

Sanchez: Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez free to sign, Yanks among teams interested

Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)
Ibanez at the 2013 World Baseball Classic. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)

The alternative to Yoan Moncada is now free to sign. According to Jesse Sanchez, Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez has been declared a free agent by MLB and unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, so can now officially sign with a team. Infielder Hector Olivera has still not been cleared to sign, by the way.

Ibanez, who turns 22 in April, left Cuba last fall and held open showcases for teams in December and January with a few private workouts mixed in, according to Ben Badler. No word on which teams brought him in for a private workout, however. Here are Ibanez’s stats from the Cuban league before defecting, courtesy of Baseball Reference:

Year Age AgeDif Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2011 18 -8.7 Isla de la Juventud 88 321 36 82 18 2 3 36 2 4 11 53 .278 .309 .383 .692
2012 19 -8.7 Isla de la Juventud 80 330 37 87 29 0 4 29 6 5 27 38 .300 .361 .441 .802
2013 20 -8.6 Isla de la Juventud 74 280 33 62 13 4 6 32 6 5 33 28 .267 .377 .435 .812
3 Seasons 242 931 106 231 60 6 13 97 14 14 71 119 .283 .348 .419 .767

Ibanez, a right-handed hitter, was the youngest player on Cuba’s roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic but he only received one at-bat during the tournament because the club had veterans all around the infield. Here’s a quick little scouting report from Badler:

At 5-foot-11, 183 pounds, Ibanez has a thicker build for a middle infielder but he’s athletic and has good body control. With fringy speed and an average arm at best, Ibanez isn’t flashy, but he has a good internal clock and a high baseball IQ, fitting best at second base. Ibanez’s power is mostly to the gaps, projecting as a doubles hitters rather than a big home run threat, but what’s sold some scouts on him is his bat.

“He’s a strong guy who doesn’t have your prototype, ideal body for a second baseman, but he moves around well for his stature,” said another scout. “And he performs. He’s a good hitter. I liked his swing and the way he manipulated the bat.”

Sanchez says the Yankees are one of seven teams with interest in Ibanez. “Ibanez is ready to sign and he could come to terms with a team once Moncada is off the board,” wrote Sanchez. “There’s the notion he could sign before Moncada because some teams consider him a less expensive alternative and want to get him into camp for Spring Training.”

Because of his age and general lack of experience in Cuba, Ibanez is subject to the international spending restrictions like Moncada. No word on what it’ll take to sign him, but the Angels gave infielder Roberto Baldoquin, who is considered a lesser prospect than Ibanez, an $8M bonus a few weeks ago. Maybe that means Ibanez will end up with $10M to $15M. Who knows. Either way, it’ll be taxed at 100%.

It goes without saying Moncada should continue to be the Yankees’ top priority based on everything we know. Ibanez is a secondary target who seems like a potential everyday second baseman, not a star, and that’s something the Yankees could use long-term. Badler says Ibanez is likely to begin his pro career in either High Class-A or Double-A, so he’s not an immediate impact guy. He’s not the sexiest target, but he’s a young player who fits.

Video: Actual game footage of Yoan Moncada

According to representative David Hastings, Cuban wunderkind Yoan Moncada could sign with a team within the next week or so. The Yankees have had the 19-year-old Moncada in for a private workout and speculation is he could receive a bonus upwards of $40M, which would be taxed at 100% due to the international spending rules. By all accounts, Moncada is a budding superstar.

Until now, the only real footage we’ve seen of Moncada is short highlight clips and token workout shots, which look great but only tell us so much. Thankfully, Ted Berg recently stumbled across some actual game footage of Moncada against Team USA during the 18U World Championship in Taiwan in September 2013. The video is embedded above. Ben Badler has some details:

In Moncada’s first at-bat, he shows off his speed with an infield single from the right side of the plate against against lefthander Justus Sheffield, who was a first-round pick (No. 31 overall) of the Indians in 2014. Moncada flipped around to bat lefthanded the rest of the game. After an intentional walk, Moncada lined an opposite-field single against righthander Jacob Nix, the Astros’ 2014 fifth-rounder who agreed to terms but never signed in the debacle involving Brady Aiken. Nix erased Moncada in their next matchup, getting Moncada to chase a 1-2 fastball above the strike zone for a swinging strikeout. In his final plate appearance, Moncada shows off his speed again with a bunt single down the third-base line against righthander Luis Ortiz, the Rangers’ 2014 first-round pick.

Keith Law (subs. req’d) recently saw Nix and said he has a “good chance to go in the back of the first round” this summer, so the video shows Moncada against three first round talents. That’s pretty good. Better than the short, grainy clips we usually have to settle for with Cuban players.

Moncada hit .375/.483/.542 in 29 plate appearances during the 2013 tournament according to Badler. Here’s more video of him facing Colombia (1-for-2 with a double and two walks) and Taiwan (1-for-4 with an infield single). Moncada definitely looks the part of a future star. Those are four (well, three) quality at-bats against three premium arms from his age group and physically, he looks like he was chiseled out of marble. Moncada looks like he was put on this Earth to play baseball.

Agent confirms Yoan Moncada hoping to sign “around the 23rd of this month”

We need to talk about that shirt, Yoan. (MLB.com)
We need to talk about that shirt, Yoan. (MLB.com)

Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada has officially been a free agent for about a week now, and it appears he is relatively close to making a decision. David Hastings, Moncada’s representative, told Jayson Stark and Dylan Hernandez his client hopes to pick a new team by February 23rd, ten days from today.

“I’m hoping, certainly, that by the end of next week, we’ll have a much clearer picture of where he will sign,” said Hastings to Hernandez. “I’m kind of hoping we’re at the final end of the process. I hope I will be able to get Yoan into a team’s Spring Training practice as soon as possible.”

The Yankees were one of several teams to have Moncada in for a private workout, and Hastings confirmed several clubs have requested “look-backs,” or a second private workout. Those “look-backs” are scheduled for next week and it’s unclear which teams asked for the second look. Maybe the Yankees, maybe not. We don’t know.

“If a team is going to put this much money on the table, I can’t imagine they can see the kid one time and say, ‘He’s worth millions of dollars.’ So they might want to come back and take a look at a second little aspect [of his game],” said Hastings to Stark. “I don’t have any more plans [for workouts] after next week. I’m looking at around the 23rd of this month to have all the input we need to make a decision on where he’ll start — and hopefully end — his professional career.

“I’ve had to become his nutritionist, his [medical adviser], his baseball trainer and his legal and financial adviser,” Hastings added. “I’m not an expert in nutrition for a 19-year-old potential superstar. I want a team that has all these professionals and experts to take over and say, ‘OK, this is what we need to do with this kid.’ The sooner the better.”

Hastings said he has one offer in hand but declined to identify the team. Most expect Moncada to wind up with a bonus in the $30M to $40M range, which would smash the record ($8.27M by Yoan Lopez) for a player under the current international spending rules. Moncada’s bonus will be taxed at 100% because whichever team signs him will exceed their international bonus pool, meaning he’s a $60M to $80M investment. All up front too.

By all accounts, the 19-year-old Moncada is a potential superstar. He’s a switch-hitter with power and speed who most expect to wind up at second or third base long-term. Jim Callis put together a fun post comparing Moncada’s tools to those of the game’s top shortstop prospects and, in a nutshell, Moncada is as good as anyone. His worst tool is his fielding skill and Callis rated that as average. Everything else is above-average or better.

At this point everything we’ve seen has said Moncada was a budding star. There hasn’t even been the token “he’s overrated” quote from an anonymous scout that usually pops up when discussing top prospects. Based on that, it’s tough to believe any team will pass on Moncada for talent-related reasons. I get the sense this is going to come down to the owner most willing to stomach a massive up front payout to get the guy his baseball people love.

Passan: Yoan Moncada officially a free agent and able to sign

(Jesse Sanchez)
(Jesse Sanchez)

3:55pm: Kiley McDaniel says MLB will now accept a general license from the OFAC and a “sworn statement [from the player] that the prospect permanently resides outside of Cuba and has no intent to return to Cuba.” McDaniel also says this only applies to players who have already left Cuba, like Moncada, who now resides in Guatemala.

3:43pm: According to Jeff Passan, Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada is now officially free to sign after MLB changes its rules regarding Office of Foreign Assets Control licensing. MLB had required a “specific license” from the OFAC before a player can sign but presumably now only requires a more basic “general license.” MLB used to accept general licenses but changed their policy a few years ago.

Now that Moncada is able to sign, the Yankees are free to pursue him and can offer him any amount. Had MLB not gotten its act together before June 15th, the team would not have been able to offer him more than $300,000 due to the penalties stemming from their international spending spree last summer. Most expect Moncada to receive a bonus in the $30M to $40M range, which would be taxed at 100% no matter who signs him.

By all accounts, the 19-year-old Moncada is a potential switch-hitting star with five tools. The expectation is that he will settle in as a second or third baseman when it’s all said and done, but I expect whoever signs him to at least keep him at shortstop for a little while to see if he improves. The Yankees are considered one of the “heavy favorites” to sign Moncada and have already had him in for a private workout at their complex in Tampa.

I’m guessing Moncada will have a deal in place before Spring Training. He wants to get paid and start his career, not sit around even longer than he already has. Now that MLB stopped dragging its feet, Moncada can begin negotiating with teams in earnest and get the process started. Since we’re talking about a $60M to $80M up front payment (bonus plus tax), the Yankees should have an advantage over smaller market teams. We’ll see.

Passan: Yoan Moncada could be cleared to sign within two weeks

(ObstructedView.net)
(ObstructedView.net)

Free agent Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada has not yet been cleared to sign by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, but there is growing hope he will be allowed to sign within two weeks, reports Jeff Passan. Moncada has already established residency in Guatemala and has been declared a free agent by MLB. Once he gets OFAC clearance, he can officially sign a contract.

However, as Ben Badler and Jesse Sanchez report, MLB currently requires Cuban players to receive a “specific license” before signing, not a “general license.” The league has accepted general licenses in the past — Yasiel Puig signed using a general license — but they changed their policy within the last few years. According to Badler and Sanchez, Moncada already meets the requirements for a general license. If he has to wait for a specific license, forget about the two weeks thing.

Earlier this week, MLB sent each team a memo stating their policies remain the same. They still require players to receive a specific license, though they are working to OFAC to clarify whether a general license is sufficient. Here’s the memo, courtesy of Sanchez:

“MLB is aware that the Cuban Assets Control Regulations published by the U.S. Treasury on January 16, 2015, may affect the unblocking process for Cuban Players,” Major League Baseball said in a statement earlier in the day. “MLB has important questions regarding how the new regulations apply to the unique circumstances of Cuban Players based on our significant experience in this area, and our discussions with OFAC in prior years. MLB is committed to following the laws of the United States, and will not change its policy requiring that Cuban Players receive a specific OFAC unblocking license until it confirms with all relevant branches of our government, including OFAC, that any new approach is consistent with the law. We hope to receive clarity on this issue as quickly as possible.”

So anyway, this is a bunch of bureaucratic nonsense. MLB decided they wanted players to have the specific license a few years ago even though the OFAC’s policies say it isn’t necessary. Moncada doesn’t have the general license just yet but he does meet the requirements, so he could receive it at any moment. Hence the two weeks thing. But, since MLB wants the specific license, he may have to wait longer.

As far as the Yankees are concerned, the deadline for Moncada to be unblocked by the OFAC — in a way that satisfies MLB — is June 15th. (It really is sometime before that because the two sides need time to negotiate.) Because the Yankees exceeded their spending pool for the 2014-15 international signing period, they can’t sign a player for more than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods. If Moncada signs before June 15th, he’ll count towards the 2014-15 signing period and they can sign him for whatever they want. If not, he’ll count towards 2015-16 and $300,000 ain’t getting it done.

The expectation is that Moncada will receive a $30M to $40M bonus, which would smash the record for a player bound by the new international spending rules (Yoan Lopez, $8.25M). His bonus will be taxed at 100% no matter which team signs him because they will exceed their pool, so he’s a $60M to $80M investment. Moncada will be like any other young international amateur signing — he gets his bonus up front, then goes into the farm system as a non-40-man roster player. Once he reaches MLB, he’ll go through three pre-arbitration years and three arbitration years like everyone else.

By all accounts, the 19-year-old Moncada is a budding star, a switch-hitter with power and speed and high-end athleticism. The Yankees had him in for a private workout at some point recently, as did the Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Rangers and Brewers, according to Sanchez. The Rays, Cubs, Phillies, and Cardinals also have interest in Moncada, though it’s worth noting the Cubs exceeded their spending pool last year and would need Moncada to wait until after July 2nd — the start of the 2015-16 signing period — to sign him.

The Yankees are considered the “heavy favorites” to sign Moncada even though they haven’t signed a big name Cuban player since Jose Contreras. Moncada’s talent is obvious — assuming the scouting reports are accurate, of course — and since he’s still only 19, he’s a potential franchise cornerstone type of player. And there’s also plenty of time for his development to veer off course as well. That’s the reality of the situation. At this point, I’m just ready for this whole thing to be over. I have Moncada (and Cuban player in general) fatigue.