So I want to start off by saying that prior to now, I've purposely tried to stay away from the Yoan Moncada hype for a couple reasons. First, I hate getting wrapped up in the Cuban machine, mainly because, as many have pointed out, the Phillies never seem to land one of these guys. It's a heated subject round these parts that always leads to spirited and sometimes ugly debates, and frankly, no one knows the truth when it comes to these things.
Second, for all the hype surrounding him, he's still 19 years old, and any player at that age comes with a high degree of risk, and the reported cost associated with signing him is HUGE. Third, I can't remember the last time a Cuban player actually signed with the team people thought would sign him, so to put the Phillies all in on someone, like we did with Tomas, can lead to nothing but disappointment.
So prepare for me to disappoint here, cause I'm convinced the Phillies are in this race, one way or another.
When I read David Murphy's fantastic piece this morning regarding the Papelbon rumors in relation to Moncada, it's pretty much been on my mind all day. I encourage you all to read the piece. it's well written, and makes a lot of sense. Whether it happens or not remains to be seen, but if they want, the Phillies can be horses in this race. Frankly, they're in the best gate, and have the inside track if they play the field right.
So much so, that I'm slowly starting to think that just about every move/non move they've made, has been done purposely to set themselves up to make a run for Yoan Moncada, including pulling out on Yasmani Tomas.
I'm also fairly convinced that the uncertainty surrounding Moncada is deeply affecting the Phillies ability/willingness to trade Cole Hamels.
Before I get to the theory, though, let me run down the process for signing Moncada as easily as I can, as it relates to the Phillies. I'm not going to get into the restrictions that happen to a team that signs him, just the facts on how the money gets paid, with a H/T to Ben Badler at Baseball America
1. Because of Moncada's age and time playing in Cuba, he's subject to international signing restrictions and can not be offered a major league contract.
2. The way teams get around this is by paying a signing bonus. But that also comes with a 100% overage tax payable to the commissioner's office.
Now here's the rub. Any international bonuses over $1,000,000 have to be paid out within a three year period. So if Moncada gets a $40,000,000 bonus, that $40,000,000 has to be paid to him by 2017. Not that bad, but still steep, right?
Here's the real kicker. The OVERAGE must be paid within one month of the end of the signing period that ends on June 15th. So if someone signs him for a $40,000,000 bonus? They have to shell out $40,000,000 CASH by July 15th, plus the portion of the bonus itself they allot to the first year.
Now realize that one of the richest owners in the game just deferred close to half of Max Scherzers deal through I THINK 2038. Cash is a big deal to teams. Especially in regards to current year outlay.
So while the Red Sox have added Sandoval and Hanley, and while the Cubs shelled out money for Jon Lester, and the Yankees and Dodgers payrolls loom north of $200,000,000, the Phillies as Murphy notes, have quietly been stashing their cash for a rainy day. I'm not saying they should, or they will, but they can go after this guy, and are likely positioned better than any other big market team to add $40,000,000 to their outgoing cash obligations this summer while other teams are also looking to upgrade for a pennant run.
I'm convinced this is a major factor for them in why they are actively shopping Ryan Howard, why they are reluctant to pay off all of Howards salary, and why they probably won't outright release him. I think its a big reason why they pushed Jimmy Rollins to go to Los Angeles, why they agreed to pay $4,000,000 of Byrd's salary, etc...
And most importantly, I think its the biggest reason (more so that the prospect talk) that they haven't wanted to/been able to strike a deal for Cole Hamels.
Lets think about this for a minute.
1.The big players for Hamels, aside from San Diego, are also the same big players rumored to be in on Moncada. Any team looking to trade for Hamels, is also picking up an additional $25,000,000 in salary this year, which, when added to the Moncada money could push upwards of $70,000,000. So trading for Hamels, and not having the Phillies pay a lot of this years salary, likely hurts them considerably in their pursuit of Moncada.
2. Conversely, IF the Phillies were to AGREE to pay down some of his salary, that's less money they have to go after the kid, and more money for the team that gets him. In addition, consider this: If the reason why they Phillies are moving Hamels is to get better quicker by picking up a top prospect, and they have to buy down Hamels contract to do it, why wouldn't they just PAY for Moncada, and keep Hamels?
3. But the real factor is that it's very likely that UNTIL Moncada signs, many of Hamels suitors, and the Phillies themselves, may be more inclined to see what they need that money for in July, and whether they can afford him them. And by him, I mean either of them.
The parts, they are a moving folks. The deals, they are complicated, and regardless of whether he ends up here or not, I'm 100% convinced that the future of this franchise is likely being controlled by a 19 year old Cuban kid right now.
Will they do it? Who knows.
And if they do, they'll need every penny, because the biggest factor in signing this guy is going to be their ability and willingness to continue to outbid everyone else until everyone else says the price is ludicrous, because that's the only way this kid ends up here and not New York or Los Angeles. Cashman and Friedman have to look at Ruben and say that guy is an idiot for paying this kid that kind of money.
Think about it guys. This has Amaro written all over it. Whether he's dumb enough to overpay considerably, and whether it turns out to be a good move or not remains to be seen. But the beauty of this move is that, aside from the limitations on international signings (which, if you really think about it are not that big of a deal, for two reasons: 1. You're just putting all your eggs in the best basket out there in years, assuming the money you would have allocated goes to Moncada instead of two or three others...and 2. The current CBA expires in December of 2016, and most people feel that MLB will make a drastic change to international signing policies anyway. So this is likely a one year penalty, not two...
So the pure facts, are there is virtually NO RISK other than money.
Remember, the team that signs Moncada gets a minor league player. He makes league minimum when he comes up, and is full arbitration eligible. He's not eligible to sign a major league contract per international rules. That means:
- No luxury tax penalties.
- No long contract that they can't get out from under
- No trading a big star to get younger
- No harm
- No foul.
And there's very little salary commitments in 2016 and even fewer in 2017. The Phillies could SUCK in 2016, not trade anyone, pay all of Moncada's bonus next year and STILL be about $60,000,000 shy of last years payroll.
Ruben Amaro's been looking for a silver bullet for three years. I think this is as close to one as they can get. And I think Pat Gillick is all in on this one.
Or I'm completely wrong, because I'm looking for a silver bullet in what's sure to be a shit sandwich of a season.
One or the other for sure.
Now excuse me while I go back to making inappropriate @wawa tweets.