We're all anxious to see the Phillies make a splash and do something big.
After a few years where it seemed like the Phils were involved in every major transaction in baseball, the last couple off-seasons have been small-time. Of course, it's understandable. The team already had a bloated payroll, filled with over-priced veterans, and appeared to be a team headed towards a rebuild.
This off-season, the team worked around the edges, signing veterans to short-term deals in the hopes they pay off. All in all, it's been a very smart off-season. They traded away veteran players like Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd. They're talking about trading Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon. They'd like to trade Ryan Howard.
These are all good ideas. But Phils fans are like degenerate gamblers. We NEED that action. We're getting hives without it.
That's why MLB.com's Todd Zolecki's piece Thursday reporting the Phillies were potentially interested in Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada was so exciting.
"We know him well," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Thursday. "He's a very good prospect. He has a chance to be a very good player. He checks off a lot of the boxes, but we're not the only team that would be interested in Yoan Moncada. But that's all I can say."
Moncada is a 19-year-old infielder who is projected by most to be a second baseman in the Majors, although it's possible he could play shortstop. And while he is a free agent able to sign with virtually every team, international signing rules and some stark competition make bringing him into the fold a definite challenge.
Should the Phillies pay this young, unproven, but certainly exciting prospect a $25-40 million signing bonus (that is the range of numbers being thrown around), knowing they will also have to pay an equal $25-40 million penalty to Major League Baseball for going over its allotted international bonus spending pool? And will they allow themselves to be prohibited from spending more than $300,000 on any single international prospect for the next two years, as a result of penalties for signing Moncada?
And even if the Phils were willing to do these things, the real question is, should they?
Money isn't the issue. With the Comcast deal in hand and a payroll that could be about $40 million cheaper than last year, the Phils can afford the large signing bonus as well as the corresponding penalty.
The real issue is the inability to sign any substantial international free agents for two full signing periods.
While it's true that superstars are most useful when trying to build a contending team, it's also true that one stud prospect is not going to turn the Phillies into a winner again. They need lots of pieces, and not being able to look toward the international market for two full years is an awfully big risk to take at this stage of their rebuild.
Yoan Moncada is not the last hot Cuban player that will come down the pike. And with relations normalizing between the U.S. and Cuba, it may soon become much easier to sign Cuban players to big league contracts. Does it make more sense to have the flexibility to sign multiple international free agents with potential, rather than blowing it all on Moncada?
Even given all these very sound arguments, the Phillies absolutely should sign Moncada if they can.
He is just 19 years old and, paired with J.P. Crawford, could make for a dynamic double-play combination for 5-7 years. Most prospect insiders agree that if Moncada were entering the MLB Draft this year, he'd probably be the #1 selection, and would likely be one of the 10 best prospects in all of baseball.
I think that is worth not being able to sign a few promising 15 and 16-year-old Dominican players for a couple years. And I think it's also worth the ridiculous amount of money it's going to take to reel him in.
Of course, the Phillies are unlikely to sign him anyway, so this is all probably a moot point. But if they can pull it off, they'll have generated the kind of excitement Phils fans haven't felt around here in a couple years. And they will have given themselves the potential to have a young, superstar-type player around which to build.