The A’s remain squarely in speculation involving a couple of this year’s most prized international free agents.
Though they’ve been linked to Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera for some time now, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted Wednesday night that executives around the majors expect Oakland to make a run at the19-year-old Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada, a switch-hitting infielder who is the most hyped of all players in the current international market.
Moncada was cleared Tuesday to sign with a major league club, but he’ll come with a huge price tag. Estimates are that it could take up to $80 million to get him – a potential $40 million bonus, for example, plus the 100 percent tax on that amount that a team would have to pay for blowing past their international spending limit for the current signing period.
Moncada is said to be a five-tool talent who would be taken near the top of this year’s MLB amateur draft were he eligible. Though he’s logged two years playing in Cuba’s top professional league, Serie Nacional, it’s assumed that he won’t jump straight to the majors. He’ll need some minor league seasoning. He currently plays shortstop but there’s thought that he could eventually wind up at third base or the outfield. Moncada reportedly has held private workouts with the Giants, Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Padres, Rangers, Rays, Tigers and Brewers, with the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox considered the favorites to sign him.
In an interview with MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, Moncada said he would like to sign soon.
[RELATED: Report: Moncada works out for Dodgers]
The A’s do like the 29-year-old Olivera, who petitioned Major League Baseball for free agency two weeks ago but is ineligible to sign until he’s granted it. Oakland reportedly was among the teams with the most representatives watching the second baseman at a recent workout in the Dominican Republic. Olivera is considered more major league-ready than Moncada and is not subject to international spending limits because of his age and professional experience in Cuba.
Olivera reportedly has held private workouts for the Giants, Padres, Mariners, Yankees, and Braves, and he has two more open workouts scheduled for the next week.
As the A’s roster stands, Ben Zobrist appears likely to play second base, though he has the ability to move to the outfield were Oakland to add someone such as Olivera.
It’s an interesting scenario to watch play out as A’s pitchers and catchers prepare to report Feb. 19. The A’s feel the international market is one where they can compete more evenly with deep-pocketed teams than the MLB-based free agent market (though signing Moncada would require a very steep commitment by Oakland’s typical spending standards).
Before the 2012 season, the A’s signed Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year $36 million contract after he defected from Cuba and watched Cespedes blossom into an immediate contributor in the middle of their batting order.