Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The tap from Cuba is wide open. Did the Yankees screw themselves by signing all those 16-year-old Latinos in July?

The latest sensation from Cuba is 19-year-old infielder Yoan Moncada, who will soon turn his head and cough for an orchestrated assembly of MLB Cliven Bundys. Unless Moncada's stool samples show traces of Ebola, he'll will sign a huge, set-for-life contract - even though he's probably a year away from the majors.

The Gammonites say Moncado is that kind of talent, the type who could hold down SS for a generation. No, he couldn't replace Derek Jeter. But wouldn't it be nice to have a rising young Yankee SS, instead of a declining Hanley Ramirez, with injuries on speed-dial?

Ten years ago, Moncada's future in pinstripes would be a done deal. Old George knew a sideshow attraction when he saw one, and nothing captures back pages like a mysterious Cardiff Giant being wheeled in from the tropics or the Orient.

But like other recent Cuban arrivals - who have rearranged the MLB power structure - Moncada probably won't sign with the Evil Empire. That's because the Yankees have already overshot this year's international spending allotment, according to the rules of MLB. Thus, they'll face a 100 percent signing tax - (yes, players union officials, salary caps come in many forms) - which puts them at a huge bidding disadvantage against small market billionaires. (Yes, folks, every MLB team is worth a billion. For info, google "Los Angeles Clippers.")

How did the Yankees paint themselves into this corner? Last summer, they launched an unprecedented spending spree, signing several top Latino 16-year-olds to multi-million dollar contracts. As a result, for the next two years, they can't sign an international player for more than $300,000. Good luck, amigos.

(By the way, when the Yankees are officially removed from auctions, the price for talent decreases. All the other billionaires can save some hard-earned dough!)

Listen: It's currently impossible for the fan base to measure the success of the Yankees' strategy. Will these 16-year-olds start a new dynasty in 2019? Who knows? But the track record for 16-year-old millionaires is spotty at best. For every Miguel Cabrera, who arrived with a Platinum card, there are five Ricardo Aramboles and five more Jackson Melians. At age 16, the testicles are still descending, and the kid's heart hasn't even been broken. Weird things happen to 16-year-old millionaires. Did you ever see Jose Tabata's wife? When my boys were 16, I didn't trust them with a $20 bill. Is it wise to make such huge investments... so early in a kid's life? Jeez, I dunno.

I should note that the Yankees are not alone here. The Redsocks and Rays - two well run organizations - have also flown over their spending limits. Still... I wonder:

Did the Yankees know that Moncada would be coming? (They probably knew of him, but I doubt anybody could have predicted he would come this soon.) If they could have known, would they have gone so far over the international spending pool, knowing how it will limit them? And does anyone know what kind of talent will be emerging from Latin America over the next few years - while MLB continually cracks down on free-market spending?

I'm not saying the Yankees botched this. Time will tell. But the Yankees always seem to be chasing some crazy scheme. In the early 2000s, they boldly signed pitchers with barking elbows - Humberto Sanchez, Mark Melancon, Andrew Brackman, et al - assuring the Gammonites that pitchers come back from Tommy John surgery stronger than ever. Well, we now know that TJ surgery is no sure thing, and many pitchers - especially young, developing ones - never figure it out.

Sometimes, I wish the Yankees would simply try to win by doing what other successful teams do - scout, draft and develop players. That would mean keeping top draft picks. That would mean taking a chance on rookies. And when a team is as lifeless as the Yankees were last August, it would mean dumping the dead wood, instead of doubling down and trading for more ancient veterans.

Well, let's not kid ourselves. That's not going to happen. It's the nature of an Evil Empire to always be plotting evil. But does evil work, when it means missing out on Yoan Moncado? Maybe it's time to start asking.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Important note:

if Moncada declares free agency before next July, the Yankees can still sign him, as he'll count for this years quotas. So lets hope.