Top Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada is now a free agent, as MLB has reached an agreement with the US government to allow Moncada to sign with any major league team beginning today.
The news on Moncada broke earlier this afternoon, and here is Yahoo Sports Jeff Passan who broke the news on Twitter:
Breaking: Yoan Moncada is a free agent after MLB changes its rules regarding Cuban players. Story with details soon on Yahoo Sports.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 3, 2015
According to Passan, the Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox are considered the favorites to sign him, but other teams have held private workouts for him including the Giants, Tigers and others.
Here is more on the details of the agreement to allow Moncada to become a free agent, courtesy of Passan:
Players who present sworn affidavits to Major League Baseball stating they are residents of another country, have no intention of returning to Cuba and are not Cuban government officials can sign with major league teams immediately, sources said. MLB distributed a memo to teams Tuesday afternoon outlining the changes.
Previously, the league required a specific unblocking license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Recent changes in the government's policy regarding Cuba prompted OFAC to no longer issue specific licenses in cases where the person fulfilled the criteria for a general unblocking license - such as permanent residency in a third country.
Below is a short scouting report on Moncada, courtesy of Kiley McDaniel at FanGraphs:
Moncada is 19 and packs a lot of tools into his 6'1/210 frame. He's a plus-plus runner with above average raw power from both sides of the plate and the tools/skills to stick in the infield, possibly at shortstop. Moncada is the quick-twitch type with big bat speed that clubs covet and his track record of hitting at big tournaments and in Cuba's professional leagues is excellent considering his age.
Here is more from Ben Badler over at Baseball America:
How good is Moncada? He has more upside than Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, who just reached a $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox. He's better than Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who's in the Dominican Republic but is still likely several months away from free agency. If Moncada were eligible for the 2015 draft, he would be in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick. Gourriel and Despaigne would be safer bets, but there's no player in Cuba with Moncada's combination of youth, tools and hitting ability.
Note: Badler's piece was written on August 22, 2014.
I read recently that Moncada is a left handed version of Yasiel Puig, so he's going to get paid a very nice sum of money in the high nine digits real soon.
More on Mioncada from McDaniel's piece earlier today:
Moncada, 19, likely spends 1-2 years in the minors before settling in the big leagues at either second base, third base or center field, with the offensive upside of Yasiel Puig. For those wondering where Moncada would land on a top 100 prospects list, he'd be somewhere from 5-12 for me, with comparable talent to guys like Carlos Correa and Corey Seager, but with far less proven as Moncada hasn't played in a game for a long time. That said, Moncada was a standout performer in nearly all of his international tournaments before leaving Cuba, so his hitting tools are expected to lead to big numbers.
For those of you who participate in leagues where you can draft minor leaguers/prospects, Moncada could/should be considered an option as the #1 pick in your farm drafts in the coming months.