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Matt White and Why the Yoan Moncada Bidding Didn’t Go Higher

By Robbie Knopf

Highly touted Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada has agreed to a contract, and it is unsurprising that he ended up with a team other than the Tampa Bay Rays. While the Rays acknowledged Moncada’s talent, the price to get him was going to be exorbitant, especially given that they would need to pay a tax equal to whatever bonus they paid.

A better question than why the Rays didn’t make a competitive offer to Moncada is why so few teams were willing to give him what he was truly worth. We heard all along that Moncada would receive a bonus between $30 million and $40 million, and he did indeed get $31.5 million from the Boston Red Sox. However, with teams like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers involved, why couldn’t Moncada get even more than that?

The Yankees reportedly offered Moncada $27 million, so they weren’t even willing to go into the range of values that seemed fair. The Dodgers were possibly willing to go as high as $35 million if Moncada waited until July 2nd, but shouldn’t a player of his caliber gotten that much with no caveats? Moncada is now one of the top prospects in baseball, but teams clearly thought that it was crazy to spend $60 million on an unproven player.

One precedent in baseball history for a situation like Moncada’s is a player that the Rays actually did sign, right-hander Matt White. Moncada is set to be the number 10 prospect in baseball. White was ranked even higher the year he signed with the D-Rays, ranking 4th.

In 1996, Matt White was selected 7th overall by the San Francisco Giants. White ranked as the best high school pitcher in his draft class thanks to a durable 6’5″ frame, a mid-90’s fastball, a dynamic curveball, and a promising changeup. The Giants thought that they were going to get one heck of a pitching prospect.

White’s agent was Scott Boras, though, and the weeks following the 1996 MLB Draft marked one of his greatest moments. Boras found a loophole in the draft rules that made any player who wasn’t offered a contract 15 days after the draft into a free agent. Players like White, Travis Lee, and Bobby Seay hit the open market, and the Rays wound up signing White for a record $10.2 million.

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That $10.2 million was a lot of money. It was the record for an amateur player, but we also have to bear in mind that slugger Albert Belle received a five-year, $55 million contract and ace Roger Clemens got four years and $40 million in the 1996 offseason. Just like the $63 million total outlay for Yoan Moncada cost 19% of the $325 million Giancarlo Stanton received and the 30% of the $210 million Max Scherzer got, White received 19% of Belle’s money and 26% of Clemens’.

What happened to Matt White? He failed. He was a top prospect for a few more years, but injury struck in 2000 and he never pitched in a single major league game. Despite Yoan Moncada’s talent, teams have to be terrified of the same thing occurring. Moncada may carry slightly less risk as a position player instead of a pitcher, but $63 million is a hefty sum nonetheless. The uncertainty associated with him was enough for even the Yankees to say that his price tag was crazy.

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