The Boston Red Sox, according to the latest offseason rumors, are one of three teams remaining in the running to sign Pablo Sandoval, the San Francisco Giants All-Star third baseman who has played a key role in all three of the Giants’ World Series championship runs in the last five years.
Boston this week reportedly offered Sandoval a $95 million deal to take over the Red Sox third base spot for the next five years. With the Toronto Blue Jays apparently backing off from the Sandoval chase — rumors say that the Jays have not bothered to be in touch with Sandoval’s reps for more than 48 hours — that left the Giants as the only other team competing with the Red Sox to retain the services of the “Panda,” a crowd favorite in the City by the Bay.
For obvious reasons, the pull of staying in San Francisco would be strong for the 28-year-old Venezuelan, and as of Saturday afternoon, the Giants still believed that Boston had not yet beaten them in the Sandoval sweepstakes.
At this hour the SF Giants still feel they’re in the Pablo Sandoval hunt. A Giants official said Sandoval has not made his decision.
— Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) November 22, 2014
But on Saturday, the San Diego Padres swooped in with an offer with terms that are so far undisclosed, but which is rumored to top the Red Sox reported bid.
So what if the Red Sox do not sign Sandoval? Their third base options for the immediate future appear somewhat limited — but for two or three years down the road, remember this name:
Fans who keep an eye on potential Cuban defectors will already be familiar with Moncada — whose first name is sometimes spelled “Johan” — called by scouts the perhaps the best teenage prospect ever to flee Cuba. The 19-year-old is a powerfully built, 210-pound, six-foot-tall switch hitter who plays not only third, but second and first base as well.
According to an evaluation by Baseball America, the top publication for news on minor league and amateur prospects, Moncada “has more upside” than Rusney Castillo, the Cuban super-prospect snapped up by the Red Sox with a $72.5 million contract, and who made his Boston debut the final weeks of the 2013 season.
“There’s no player in Cuba with Moncada’s combination of youth, tools and hitting ability,” the respected publication reported.
Would the Red Sox be in the mix for Moncada? Right now, they are not among the teams considered to be among the favorites to scoop up the coveted Cuban, but that could change quickly if Boston loses out to San Francisco or San Diego for Sandoval, and the Red Sox are stuck without a long term option at third base.
In a two or three years, Moncada could be that option, and with no Pablo Sandoval, it appears likely that Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington would see it that way.
On the other hand, Baseball America also reports that “no team seems to be a better fit for Moncada than the Yankees,” words that no citizen of Red Sox Nation ever likes to hear.
Major League Baseball took the unusual step on Saturday of declaring Moncada an eligible free agent — even before he receives a license to sign from OFAC, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets. MLB requires Cuban players to obtain an OFAC license before inking any deal.
Thanks to government red tape and various political considerations, it could still be several months before Moncada gets the green light to sign any Major League deal.
By then the third base situation in Boston should be much more clear, and it will be left to the Red Sox to decide whether they want to spend big to top up an already loaded farm system.
[Images courtesy of m.mlb.com and rumorsandrants.com]