Teenage Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball on Saturday, clearing one major hurdle before he can sign with a team, per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, and confirmed by Keith Law of ESPN and Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
Moncada, 19, must next be cleared by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control before he can become a professional, with no set timetable for that final step.
The infielder is 6'2, 200 pounds and is one of the most highly regarded prospects to come out of Cuba in some time. He worked out for dozens of MLB scouts on Wednesday in Guatemala.
"If Moncada were eligible for the 2015 draft, he would be in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick," Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote in August. "There’s no player in Cuba with Moncada’s combination of youth, tools and hitting ability."
Unlike fellow countryman Yasmany Tomas, set to cash in in his own right, Moncada is considered an amateur free agent and thus subject to international bonus limits set forth by the MLB collective bargaining agreement. With Moncada expected to receive a bonus somewhere in the neighborhood of $30-40 million, any team that signs him will face severe penalties.
For one, the signing team wouldn't be allowed to sign a player for over $300,000 in either of the next two international signing periods, which run annually from July 2 to June 15. In addition, with international bonus pool limits ranging from $1.8 to $5 million per team, nearly all of Moncada's bonus would be subject to a 100-percent overage tax, meaning his $30-40 million bonus really costs $60-80 million.
By contrast, the slot amount for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft was $7.9 million.
But even with the steep cost, the demand will be high for a player of Moncada's talent, so expect a bidding war for his services once he is cleared.