JABO: Comparing the Recent Cuban Contracts

On Monday, the Red Sox won the bidding war for Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada, reportedly agreeing to pay $31.5 million as a signing bonus, plus another $31.5 million as a tax to the commissioner’s office for going over their allocation for international spending. That totals a $63 million acquisition cost for the organization, making Moncada one of the most expensive prospects in baseball history.

But if anything, the signing cost was perhaps a little bit on the low side of expectations, which had been rumored to be in the $30 to $40 million range for months. And while $63 million is a lot of money, the Red Sox actually guaranteed $72 million to fellow Cuban Rusney Castillo last year. Castillo broke the record for most money from a Cuban signee, set the prior year when the White Sox gave Jose Abreu $66 million. The Diamondbacks clearly used those two contracts as the inspiration for their $68 million deal with Yasmany Tomas, so Moncada became the fourth Cuban to sign for between $63 to $72 million in guaranteed money.

On the one hand, you could say that these four contracts represent a pretty clear price range that the market is willing to pay for talented Cuban hitters, but in reality, each contract has its own unique features that make the simple guaranteed dollar amounts a poor way of evaluating the true cost of the player to the team that signed them.

For instance, Moncada — unlike Abreu, Castillo, and Tomas — was prohibited from signing a major league contract, so the Red Sox do not get the benefit of spreading the cost out over the years during which he’s going to play in Boston, nor will any of the $63 million they’ve already committed to pay cover his future salaries when he does arrive in the big leagues. In other words, the $63 million payout for Moncada was simply to acquire his rights, making it more comparable to the posting fees paid to acquire players from Japan in the past.

Read the rest at Just a Bit Outside.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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