Florida CPA David Hastings just negotiated by far the largest signing bonus in history for an international free agent, getting Cuban shortstop Yoan Moncada $31.5 million from the Red Sox.

Florida CPA David Hastings just negotiated by far the largest signing bonus in history for an international free agent, getting Cuban shortstop Yoan Moncada $31.5 million from the Red Sox.

Given Hastings’ lack of experience, it makes sense that rival agencies would try to steal Moncada right before his big payday. A source said that Hastings hired armed guards to keep such interlopers away, and Fangraphs reported that two agents working for Scott Boras were removed from a showcase workout in Guatemala.

In a phone conversation on Monday night, however, Hastings disputed that reasoning and said the guards served a much more important purpose.

“We had the armed guards not to protect him from the agents,” Hastings said. “We had the armed guards to protect him from the people out there that would want to kidnap him and hold him for ransom. Or kill him. The process is dangerous for these Cuban players, because once you get them out of Cuba, legally or illegally, they are targets of other people out there that see them as like a diamond. And they want to take that diamond. It’s worth money. The secrecy was to protect Yoan from that element, not from the agents.”

Hastings said he generally tried to keep Moncada’s whereabouts a secret even in the U.S., out of an abundance of caution.

“We’ve been careful ever since we got him out of Cuba to protect his whereabouts, and even when his whereabouts were known, to protect him at that point as well, whether it was here in the U.S. or Guatemala,” he said.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

David Hastings, the agent for 19-year-0ld Cuban free agent Yoan Moncada, described how his client landed in Boston. Simply put, it came down to money.

David Hastings, the agent for 19-year-0ld Cuban free agent Yoan Moncada, described how his client landed in Boston. Simply put, it came down to money.

Hastings said the Red Sox were among four finalists for Moncada, joining the Yankees, Dodgers and Padres. Moncada liked all four teams equally, and after one round of bidding, the four were basically tied at $25 million. Hastings went back to each club to solicit a second round of offers.

“I explained that everyone had the same amount of money, and one team had to distinguish themselves above the others for us to go further,” Hastings said. “I gave them all a chance to give us their second bid. I immediately got second bid offers and went back to the teams that had not chosen to give second bid offers and told them where they needed to be if they wanted to continue to be in the process and the Yankees declined.”

The Red Sox won the bidding with a bonus of $31.5 million, far and away a record for an international free agent, beating the previous high of $8.27 million the Diamondbacks gave Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez in in January. The Yankees didn’t budge off $25 million, and their fans will no doubt be disappointed to hear how that cost them.

“Listen, Yoan would’ve gone to the Yankees, had the Yankees beaten everyone else,” Hastings said. “He liked the Yankees. He liked the Dodgers. He liked San Diego. He liked all these teams. When you like every team, and one is like, ‘We’re going to offer you $1 million more, or $2 million more, or $3 million more,’ it’s kind of a no-brainer.”

Blog Author: 
John Tomase
Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

FORT MYERS, Fla. — At the start of spring training 2014, Christian Vazquez sat in his same corner locker right next to the main entrance of the Red Sox clubhouse at JetBlue Park. That hasn’t changed but his role certainly has.

Last year, David Ross was the starting catcher coming off a World Series in which he caught the final pitch from Koji Uehara in Game 6 against the Cardinals. A.J. Pierzynski was the back-up. And Vazquez was taking his reps, trying to show the organization he could handle the job if either or both went down for an extended period.

He got that chance in earnest when Pierzynski was traded out of town in July and the team was falling quickly out of the playoff race in the American League. He played 55 games. He batted .240 with just one homer and 20 RBIs.

But clearly that’s not what earned him the job. He handled the pitching staff as a 23-year-old rookie and blew away everyone with some eye-popping defensive numbers. Twenty-nine base runners attempted to steal with him behind the plate. Fifteen were thrown out. That 52 percent rate was nearly double the 27 percent league average. And that didn’t even include the four pickoffs he executed with his gun of a right arm.

Now, in 2015, there is no doubt — Vazquez is the starting catcher, with Ryan Hanigan the veteran back-up. What are the Red Sox expecting in terms of the next step for the 24-year-old defensive weapon?

“The step that we would anticipate him taking this year is handling the pitchers that he did for the half of last year, and understanding even more so what their trigger points are and how to get the most out of them,” manager John Farrell said Monday. “His development as one of the leaders of our pitching staff is going to be challenged because of the number of new faces that are here. Spring training is going to be critical for he and Ryan Hanigan to understand what each pitcher likes in certain situations, what pitch to go to. But I know that in Christian’s commitment to those conversations and the time spent to learn individuals, that’s who he is as a person. That’s him evolving as a game-caller and a catcher behind the plate.”

There’s been another change. Vazquez has traded in No. 55 for No. 7, the same number as his idol Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. Vazquez said Monday he’s hoping to be just like him. Like Rodriguez had to do, Vazquez will need to understand that learning a pitching staff and grinding through scouting reports should not impact his impressive raw ability.

“That’s started with Christian and every other catcher from the day they sign a pro contract,” Farrell said. “They’re well aware that priority one is to get the most out of the guy on the mound. So, there’s added time needed to their preparation, when you’re thinking about a game plan to a scouting report to how it applies to the given guy that night. But it continues to evolve with each year he’s been at the position, particularly at the big league level. Yeah, there’s a lot on his plate but he’s got the wherewithal to handle all that.”

There’s been another impact from Vazquez: the thought that Blake Swihart — another talented catcher — could be trade bait along with Henry Owens for Cole Hamels. If Swihart stays, there’s the chance that he could actually see major league playing time in Boston.

“We would hope at some point this year he’s ready to step in if the need were to arise but no less talented than Christian,” Farrell said. “Maybe not as advanced because of the [lack] of games caught at the upper levels yet but still, a bright future and a very talented player in his own right.

“We’re fortunate to have such young, talented guys that project to be frontline-type catchers that can impact the running game, and he and Christian are proving that as they gain experience and as they move up the ladder. There’s still some work to be done with Blake.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Brock Holt

Brock Holt

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Brock Holt and Daniel Nava are the ying and yang of the Red Sox bench. And manager John Farrell acknowledges how well the 2015 Red Sox come together could hinge, in part, on how these two super subs perform.

Daniel Nava hit .300 for the final four months of 2014 while Brock Holt was the only American Leaguer to start at seven different positions over the course of the 162-game season. Holt missed the final 21 games with a concussion but still managed to hit .281 with a .331 OBP and four home runs.

“We’re never restricted by late-inning moves because we’ve got the versatility with those two guys,” Farrell said Monday. “They’re talented players that you can build in some off-days for other guys and rotate them through and seemingly not skip a beat. It goes back to the depth of our roster and the talent that’s there.

“The key is with David being a full-time DH, Brock’s versatility really allows [for substitution options]. Where many teams might use the DH spot to rotate guys through and get them off their legs on a given day, Brock is that built-in player to do that with David in the DH spot. We didn’t know this going into last year but the fact he started games at seven different positions, he put himself in a unique category around the league.”

Holt became Boston’s most productive utility player — and baseball’s most versatile — as Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino all battled through injuries.

“He’s a good baseball player,” Farrell said. “He’s shown an improved arm strength as we put him over at shortstop the last couple of years, an above-average runner and clearly what we saw in the outfield were good reads and routes when playing all three positions.

“Maybe one of the better stories of the otherwise overall frustrating year was his versatility and how he improved as a player.”

As for Nava?

“Daniel is going to be in the same role that he’s been in the last couple of years, a versatile guy that plays first and the two corner outfield positions. Clearly, with the number of right-handed hitters that we’ve got at first and the outfield, his left-handed bat is a great compliment. I think in the last two years, he’s proven himself to be a very good major league hitter. Even though with early challenges last year, he bounced back and finished strong. Just a pure left-handed hitter that I think we’ll see a little bit more attention to the left side, particularly in camp here.”

Farrell noted Monday that Nava’s season took off in June when he returned from Triple-A and stopped trying to hit for power and reverted this line drive mentality at the plate.

“I don’t know if Daniel would admit it or not, I think he looked to drive the ball a little bit more so we saw a number of balls in the air, uncharacteristic to his swing,” Farrell said. “When he’s right, he’s a line drive hitter, particularly in the left-center field gap as a left-handed hitter, kind of a spraying the ball around the field. But the number of balls he hit in the air kind of lend to maybe an attempt to drive the ball a little bit more. He got back to that [line drive approach] really early June and beyond, and that’s when he’s at his best.”

Nava didn’t argue Farrell’s assessment, admitting that he pressed a bit last season. Nava had the chance at the starting right field job to start the season when Victorino wasn’t ready for the opener, but he couldn’t claim it for his own.

“I had that going into last year but I didn’t do a very good job of holding onto it for a little bit,” Nava said of his .149 April average. “Of course it would be [nice] but in the same boat, I am used to stuff kind of like this. It’s not that I don’t want that but it’s not like this is the first time I’ve been in this position.”

“But I would obviously the other opportunity but that’s not to say I’m not grateful for what I have. I had a lot of other opportunities that weren’t playing baseball so I’ll take this one.”

Nava says he can’t wait to be apart of a team with so much roster potential.

“Probably as much as you guys are,” Nava said. “Our starting staff, Hanley, Pablo, you get a healthy [Mike Napoli] here. You get a healthy Victorino. You have young outfield guys. You’ve got Allen Craig coming back probably being the Allen Craig he’s used to being. It could be a lot of wakeup calls for a lot of people. It could be so we’ll see. That’s why you play the games, right?”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo doesn’t know Yoan Moncada particularly well ‘€“ they met at a Cuban All-Star Game in 2013 ‘€“ but Castillo remembers enough to be impressed with the newest member of the organization

Rusney Castillo met with the media in Fort Myers after playing in his first professional game with the Red Sox organization Sunday. (WEEI.com photo)

Rusney Castillo is impressed with potential new teammate Yoan Moncada. (WEEI.com photo)

Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo doesn’t know Yoan Moncada particularly well ‘€“ they met at a Cuban All-Star Game in 2013 ‘€“ but Castillo remembers enough to be impressed with the newest member of the organization.

“If it’€™s true — obviously I don’€™t know anything for sure — but if it is, it’s welcome, and I’€™m happy he’€™s here with us,” Castillo said through translator Adrian Lorenzo.

The Red Sox are still finalizing the deal that will net the 19-year-old Moncada a $31.5 million signing bonus. Once he arrives, he’ll again cross paths with Castillo, his fellow Cuban.

“It’€™s always a positive thing to have more and more Cuban players in the league,” Castillo said. “It’€™s definitely something exciting and something I look forward to continuing.”

Moncada’s addition gives the Red Sox an exciting core of up-and-coming youngsters, whether it’s 22-year-olds Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts in the big leagues, catching prospect Blake Swihart at Triple A, or left-hander Henry Owens, also at Pawtucket.

“We’re not just thinking about now,” Bogaerts said. “We’re kind of thinking about the future as well. He’s a great addition to the team. I’ve never seen him play, but I’ve heard a lot about him. He’s a great talent from Cuba. I mean, he has to be good to give him that amount of money, you know?”

Castillo reportedly raced — and lost –€“ a sprint around the bases with Moncada at that Cuban All-Star Game in 2013, but that’s not how Castillo remembers the story, which he described as a relay.

“I remember that he could run,” Castillo said. “We were in a running competition, but I actually ran home to first, and he ran the bases. . . . I can’t think of a comp off the top of my head, but I know he’s a pretty complete player.”

Castillo said the Red Sox spoke to him informally before signing Moncada. Right now, he said, he’s learning just how big baseball is in Boston and around the country.

“I think I can gain an appreciation for it,” he said. “I’ve been gaining an appreciation for how important it is, especially given our fanbase and media presence.”

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The only unaccounted for player in Red Sox camp is expected to make his arrival Tuesday.

Rusney Castillo shares a laugh with David Ortiz before a game in 2014. (Getty Images)

Rusney Castillo shares a laugh with David Ortiz before a game in 2014. (Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The only unaccounted for player in Red Sox camp is expected to make his arrival Tuesday.

Manager John Farrell said Monday that he expects Red Sox slugger David Ortiz in camp on time to take his physical and report to camp in time for the first full squad workout on Wednesday.

But asked specifically if he’s heard from the 39-year-old slugger, Farrell said he had not had any formal contact as of Monday morning.

“I don’t have an exact arrival date yet, no,” the manager said.

In the last several years, Ortiz has arrived days in advance of the first full squad workout but he has not been sighted so far.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia