One of the perceived strengths of the Texas Rangers organization in recent years has been the middle infield depth. With Elvis Andrus still only 26 years of age, Jurickson Profar still waiting to make his splash, and Rougned Odor making his MLB debut in 2014, the Rangers will head into 2015 with, once again, questions to answer regarding the infield. That's before even considering Luis Sardinas, who is also someone that could work his way into the conversation, forcing essentially a 4-man logjam in the middle infield.
Much of that will resolve itself naturally. Profar, for his part, will likely need some time in the minors after missing all of 2014 with a shoulder injury. Sardinas isn't generally viewed as someone that is ready for everyday playing time at the Major League level. So rolling with Andrus and Odor on Opening Day in 2015 makes sense. Beyond that, the Rangers have options.
Nonetheless, it won't stop Texas from, along with every other organization in baseball, checking in on the newest hot commodity on the international market. His name is Yoan Moncada, and he plays, you guessed it, the middle infield positions.
Even though signing another middle infielder would appear to go against what the Rangers need in the short-term, young assets are young assets, and Moncada is viewed as quite possibly having the most talent at such a young age of anyone from Cuba since the 1980s. Ben Badler of Baseball America had a write-up on Moncada back in August, which I would recommend giving a read.
The gist of it is that Moncada is 19 years of age, stands at somewhere around 6 feet tall and 210 pounds, is a switch-hitter, and has some exciting tools.
The current situation with Moncada is that it's unclear exactly when he'll be eligible to sign with any team. He's currently in Guatemala, and until MLB officials are able to discern exactly how and when he got there and established residency, and furthermore he's eligible to legally be employed in the United States, all bets are off. As with most Cuban baseball players, there is a shroud of mystery surrounding his circumstances, and because of Moncada's age (19), he'll fall under the international bonus pools rather than MLB free agency.
How does this affect the Rangers? Because of international bonus pool regulations that took effect in July of 2012 that Texas exceeded in the 2013-2014 signing period, the organization is unable to spend more than $250,000 on any one player during the 2014-2015 signing period. Given that Moncada's projected bonus figures to be around $30-40 million, if he is able to be signed prior to June 15, 2015, the Rangers would almost certainly be eliminated from bidding for his services.
However, if the paperwork and process of uncovering Moncada's past take longer than that and into the 2015-2016 signing period, the Rangers very well could find themselves in a position to spend some money on a player that scouts are raving about.
Of course, this is all speculative and the Rangers very well may be happy with the current infield situation, but if last season proved anything, it's that you can never have too many talented bodies. Some might end up making a splash for the Major League club. Others may end up as trade chips, while even more may never pan out. Regardless, when something like The Great Injury Crisis of 2014 -- yes, I gave it a name in my head -- strikes, having a talented and versatile player such as Moncada might make things a bit easier to swallow. Furthermore, if there is any truth to previous reports that the Rangers have been looking into what they might be able to get for Elvis Andrus, having yet another young and talented infielder might not be such a bad thing.
In the end, I don't know that I expect the Rangers to necessarily be "in" on Moncada. Crazier things have happened, but I'm not sure the organization would view paying such a high bonus to a player who would create even more of an infield logjam -- plus the almost-certain 100% tax on said bonus, thus doubling the investment in him -- as something that would be beneficial for long-term organizational growth. Doing so would hamper international signing moving forward. Regardless, Yoan Moncada figures to be a hot commodity and a name you'll be hearing about in the coming months leading up to his inevitable signing.