Yoan Moncada is a 19-year-old Cuban prospect who just signed a $30 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Drew Smyly was not happy about the Yoan Moncada deal. Smyly took to twitter to voice his opinion on the contract.
It’s not right that a Cuban 19yr old gets paid 30m and the best 19yr old in the entire USA gets prob 1/6th of … http://t.co/7aAZCwgm2t
— Drew Smyly (@SmylyD) February 23, 2015
Does he have a point about that? Somewhat, but his opinion came off a little more harsh than it was meant to be. There might be more to his opinion than it not being right that a 19-year-old Cuban prospect gets $30 million while the other top American prospects are starving (compared to Moncada) in the minor leagues. It also must be noted that Moncada, more than likely, is going to spend at least one year in the minor leagues. Is there something wrong with the draft and contract structuring system for players coming out of high school and college? Well, for starters, American players, are not on the same level as their age group in some Caribbean countries, and some South American countries. Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, routinely produce some of baseball’s most talented players. As of recent, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Cuba have been the big three in terms of baseball’s best.
He does have a point though, everyone should have to go through the same process, right? The draft makes it easy for organizations to own the rights to a player’s contract for a long time, in fact, too long. MLB players are only eligible for free agency after six years of service time, and that’s only if they make it to the MLB level. There have been early round picks that are career minor league players, who spend 10 seasons in Triple-A only to get called up once. The difference between being drafted number one overall in the NBA and the MLB is that it may take someone years to get called up to the MLB, whereas the NBA player will more than likely be a starter instantly. The main problem Smyly had, is that MLB teams own the rights to the contracts of drafted players until they have three years in the league before they’re even eligible for arbitration. Much of the time foreign players are free agents before they even touch American soil.
Smyly makes a good point, but the problem with it, is that American players coming up through high school aren’t seeing the 95mph heaters from the pitchers they’re facing, and if they are, it’s VERY rare. They are seeing 80mph fastballs, and players just learning how to hit for power, if they’ve even reached that point yet. These players from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Cuba are being trained at baseball academies or are playing professionally in their respective countries, they don’t have traditional high school baseball, or traditional college baseball. It’s not the MLB’s fault that some American players just aren’t on the same level as foreign prospects at such a young age. That’s not to say that some of the best players in baseball aren’t American. But in terms of talent, the number of foreign players from those four or five countries, outnumber the talent of American players, by a lot.
The way the draft is structured won’t let American players get paid right off the bat, because the system won’t allow them to. There is no American prospect that can hit the ball the way Moncada does, every MLB scout in America knows that. Which is why he got the contract that he did, because history repeats itself. Not that upbringing should be a basis of how a player is paid, but there are a number of top-tier MLB players signing long-term inexpensive deals, but still having top-tier production. Also, a large number of these players only have baseball in their lives, and are living in impoverished parts of these countries, all while trying to support an entire family. That’s just simply not the case in America, for the most part.
So although Drew Smyly has a point about the system not being fair for American players, and that players from the islands & South America as well as the USA are still amateurs both groups aren’t comparable. That’s also not to say that, the next Mike Trout isn’t out there, but when general managers see 18-year-old Mike Trout coming out of high school, and 18-year-old Yasiel Puig coming from Cuba where he played professionally, the choice is a lot easier than it seems.