About 11 months ago, Yoan Moncada signed with the Red Sox for $31.5 million. The Dodgers really wanted him, but they also didn’t want to be locked out of the 2015-16 signing period.
They tried to lure him with a $35 million contract offer if he had waited until July 2 to sign, but he (rightly) passed on that. It was a nice idea, but it was for naught. And that’s OK.
The Dodgers instead have been able to sign a lot of international talent since July 2: Yadier Alvarez, Ronny Brito, Oneal Cruz, Yusniel Diaz, Omar Estevez and Starling Heredia — among others. They also almost landed Lucius Fox, Jr., and Eddy Julio Martinez, but ultimately decided to pass. The gamble the Dodgers took was to bet on the quantity of prospects rather than the quality. And that’s not to say there isn’t quality in this group, but the Dodgers certainly haven’t signed a player of Moncada’s caliber (yet).
Moncada made his pro debuted and was as advertised. He hit .278/.380/.438 with eight home runs, an 11.2 BB% and 49(!) stolen bases in the South Atlantic League. He’s firmly entrenched as one of baseball’s Top 10 prospects, and he only projects to get better.
It’d be fantastic to have a guy like Moncada in the system. After Corey Seager graduates this year, the top of the farm system gets considerably thinner — that’ll happen when you lose a Top 2 prospect. Having Moncada to slide in and take that spot would be quite nice. But that isn’t reality. What is reality is the fact the Dodgers have spent more than $100 million on international prospects since July 2 (overage taxes included), and they could very well end up being more valuable than Moncada.
This follows the MO of the Dodgers’ offseason: Depth over paying top dollar for quality players. The situations are oddly parallel. Like in the Moncada situation, they tried to pay top dollar for Zack Greinke. They offered him $31 million for five years only to have the Diamondbacks give him a contract they’re likely to regret in 3-4 years. That’s the game.
We’ve yet to see anything from the guys signed this year. None of them have debuted. But the Dodgers have committed all this money to these guys for a reason: They believe in the talent and what their scouts reported. While Moncada probably got top grades, who’s to say Alvarez, Diaz and the like didn’t receive nearly similar grades? Instead of signing Moncada ($35 million), they got Alvarez ($16 million) and Diaz (15.5 million). There’s no guarantee either will be as valuable as Moncada (together and/or separately), but it’s a worthwhile gamble.
And that’s what this is: It’s gambling. No one has the iron-clad, can’t-miss scouting report on guys who are, on the whole, under-scouted. The front office processes the information it is given and determines whether the risk is acceptable or logical. In this case, the Dodgers opted for the 2015-16 signing period instead of Moncada and maybe guys like Yoan Lopez and Andy Ibanez.
Also, there are still plenty of premium prospects out there. Lazaro Armenteros (even though I’m not completely sold on him), Randy Arozarena, Vladimir Gutierrez, Adrian Morejon, Jorge Ona, Norge Ruiz — just to name a few — could all be on the Dodgers’ radar.
Missing out on Moncada doesn’t look great right now, but the Dodgers aren’t going to go the rest of the signing period without signing some more players to maximize their opportunity and to mitigate not signing Moncada. The bounty of players from this signing period has a chance to be as valuable as coming up with Moncada and friends.