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Phenom Yoan Moncada not likely in Tigers' plans

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Cuban star Yoan Moncada has been declared free to sign with big-league teams. And wouldn't he fit nicely onto a Tigers roster that's looking for a speedy, switch-hitter with power, a big arm, and a slightly above-average glove at three infield positions?

Scouts have come to a consensus, widely reported, that Moncada, 19, is the best of all the Cubans who will have crashed America in search of plump paychecks, the planet's best baseball competition, and a post-baseball life more pleasing than too many generations of Cold War Cuban baseball superstars previously knew.

Like every team that has even a faint interest in winning, the Tigers are interested. Al Avila, the Tigers' assistant general manager who has particular responsibility for Latin American talent, says the Tigers have seen Moncada in competition and have studied him more closely at a private workout.

That is all Avila will say. And no doubt the clam-up has to do with Moncada's particular circumstance, which is complicated and destined to be expensive for whatever team signs him.

It has to do with Moncada's age, 19, and his status, which is amateur. Past Cuban stars like Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, Aroldis Chapman, Jose Abreu, etc., were older professionals when they signed. Therefore they didn't count against a team's international bonus pool – the amount Commissioner Rob Manfred's office allocates each year to each club for signing players in Latin American, Asia, Australia, etc.

To use the Tigers as an example, their international allowance for 2014-15 was $1,946,000, which is perhaps 20 times beneath the cash Moncada expects to snare.

If the Tigers go 15 percent beyond their allotment – Moncada will blow that away in a single paystub – the team is taxed 100 percent and is disallowed from spending more than $300,000 on a particular international player during the next two drafts.

It's a game of poker both expensive and punitive and not many clubs this side of Boston, New York, or Dodger Stadium can justify it. Which is why the Tigers will probably sit out the Moncada sweepstakes, at least when final raises have been made and the poker cards are flipped.