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MLB Declares Yoan Moncada A Free Agent

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The decision by MLB is bad news for the Cubs.

We don't have any photos of Yoan Moncada, so here's a photo of the Cuban flag
We don't have any photos of Yoan Moncada, so here's a photo of the Cuban flag
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The drama between Major League Baseball, the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada is now over as MLB changed its policy and will now allow Cubans cleared by a "general license" to sign with a team. Previously, MLB had required a written "specific license" before allowing a player to sign. However, the OFAC announced on Friday that they would no longer issue a "specific license" to Cubans who were cleared by a "general license," which forced the change in MLB policy.

The 19-year-old Moncada is considered to have some of the best tools to come out of Cuba. He's projected to hit for both average and power and he compliments that with good plate discipline and plus speed. He's played second base and center field in Cuba, but a lot of MLB scouts think third base would be his best position. Most reports state that if Moncada were eligible for the June amateur draft, he'd be the easy first pick in the draft.

With such talents, it's no surprise that the Cubs front office is interested in signing Moncada. However, today's news is very bad news for the Cubs, because they are prohibited from signing any international free agent for more than $250,000 until July 2 of this year. That penalty is the result of the 2013 spending spree that landed such talents as Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez and Jen-Ho Tseng.

While it is certainly possible for the Cubs to continue to negotiate with Moncada with the promise of signing a contract on July 2, in practical terms this eliminates the Cubs and the Rangers (who have the same penalties) from the bidding. Had the process dragged out until April or May, the Cubs could easily argue that the season had already started and waiting another 6-8 weeks is no big deal. However, now the Cubs' front office will have to convince Moncada to skip spring training and the start of the season. With the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers also highly interested in Moncada, the Cubs would have to offer several times more money than those teams would offer to get him to wait until July. Those teams don't get outbid by wide amounts very often. On top of that, Moncada would have to trust the Cubs enough to wait, since any promise the Cubs made at this time would be non-binding. And if the Cubs were to back out, the Yankees and Red Sox would be prohibited from signing him for more than $300,000 for the next two seasons. He would lose way too much leverage.

So while this is good news for baseball in general, it's pretty bad news for the Cubs. But Moncada was always favored to go to the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers in any case.