On the surface, the Celtics and Red Sox seem similar only in their Boston location. One is in the stages of a multi-year rebuilding project, while the other is a year removed from a championship and favored by oddsmakers to return to the World Series this season. But although Celtics president Danny Ainge has garnered lots of attention for his asset-accumulation strategy, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has been doing the same thing. The latest example: Yoan Moncada agreeing to a contract with the Sox for $31.5 million, which will cost the Sox twice that after you factor in a 100-percent tax.
The initial reaction is to wonder where he fits. When you scroll through the Sox lineup, almost every starting position player is under team control for at least three more years. The only players who aren’t are Mike Napoli and David Ortiz (and Shane Victorino if you count him). Not to mention, the prospects such as Garin Cecchini, Devin Marrero and Blake Swihart, who are all currently blocked by other young talented players. It’s an overflow of talent, but that didn’t deter Cherington when he signed Hanley Ramirez to play left field in November or when he signed Moncada this time around. Ramirez is an outstanding hitter, who you worry about position with later. If scouting reports on Moncada are true, he’s also an outstanding talent, who you worry about position with down the line.
By signing him, the Sox have to pay the $31.5 million tax, but they don’t have to forfeit a draft pick (like signing a player in free agency) and they don’t have long-term financial implications that come with going over the luxury tax (loss of revenue sharing, repeater tax). They had already exceeded their international budget to sign two of the top three international pitching prospects in August, so the penalties of not being able to go over the international budget for the next two years were already in place. The Sox have oodles of money coming in these days from national and regional TV deals, not to mention sponsorships. Spending each year to the $189 payroll limit before a luxury tax kicks in would leave them with a large amount of profit. Going over that limit can take a financial toll in the long run. But the chances to spend money outside that tax are very limited, and they were already going to be even more limited with the international budget penalty looming regardless of this signing. So, they paid an extra $31.5 million now to take a chance on Moncada. He’s young and the chances any team has to simply sign young, talented players in the current system are close to nill. Those types of players never hit free agency until they’re near the end of their prime. They’ll figure out where to play him later, but they’ll be satisfied they have him as an asset in their organization right now. It’s about accumulating talent. Danny Ainge knows it. And based on his past few moves, Cherington does, too.