By: Jerry Crasnick
Prized Cuban free agent Yoan Moncada has four or five more private workouts scheduled with Major League Baseball teams in the next week and hopes to decide where he will sign by Feb. 23, his representative told ESPN on Wednesday.
Moncada expects to audition individually for about a dozen teams, according to David Hastings, the Florida-based certified public accountant who is handling the infielder’s negotiations with clubs. Several teams have requested what Hastings called “look-backs” — or second, follow-up workouts.
Multiple media outlets have speculated that Moncada, 19, could command a signing bonus in the $30-50 million range.
“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,'” Hastings said. “So they might want to come back and take a look at a second little aspect [of his game]. Sometimes they bring different personnel. Somebody wasn’t available for the first workout, so they want that person to see him and evaluate him as well.
“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.”
A switch-hitter, Moncada batted .277 in two seasons with Cienfuegos in Cuba’s Serie Nacional before leaving the country last year with the permission of the Cuban government. He held a workout for a reported 70 to 100 MLB talent evaluators in Guatemala in November.
Moncada officially hit the open market last week when MLB eliminated its requirement that Cuban players obtain a license from the U.S. government before becoming eligible to sign with big league teams.
The Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs, Rangers, Padres, Giants, Tigers, Braves, Brewers, Rays andAngels are among the teams that have scouted Moncada or invited him in for private workouts, according to sources and media reports.
Potential suitors have auditioned Moncada at second base, third base and shortstop, while a few clubs have also looked at him in the outfield.
In a recent Spanish-language interview with MLB.com, Moncada said he hopes to reach the majors quickly.
“My goal is to sign with a team soon, start training with them and make it to the major leagues as fast as I can with whichever team that might be,” he said. “I know I’m going to do the best I can for as long as I can in this sport.”
Hastings said he already has one concrete offer in hand but declined to identify the club.
Since Moncada is under 23 and has not played professionally in Cuba for more than five years, his negotiations are governed by specific international rules on how much teams can spend and when they can sign him.
The Cubs and Rangers, for example, exceeded their bonus pool allotments in recent years and are limited to spending $250,000 on Moncada until a July 2 deadline passes.
The Yankees, Red Sox and Rays, in contrast, are free to sign Moncada immediately. But their past international spending has placed them in a category where their investment would be subject to a 100 percent tax. That means a $30 million outlay on Moncada would cost them $60 million.
Hastings said he would prefer that the negotiations move quickly to hasten Moncada’s long-term development.
“It’s almost like somebody walks up to you and hands you a $50 million diamond and says, ‘Take care of this for a few months. I’ve got to go. Bye,'” Hastings said.
“I’ve had to become his nutritionist, his [medical adviser], his baseball trainer and his legal and financial adviser. 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.”