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Orioles scouted Yoan Moncada, but he's likely out of their price range

The Orioles were among several teams that scouted Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada in Guatemala on Wednesday, an industry source said.

An estimated 100 scouts were there to watch the 19-year-old work out, the source said. And while the Orioles were impressed with his tools and promise, Moncada -- the latest in a wave of highly-touted Cuban players -- is likely well out of the club's price range.

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Moncada -- a 6-foot, 210-pound switch-hitter who is primarily a second baseman but also has played shortstop and center field -- has long excelled playing for Cuba's junior national teams and held his own playing in the Cuban professional league since debuting at age 17.

Baseball America called Moncada the most talented teenager to leave Cuba since outfielder Jorge Soler, who signed with the Chicago Cubs for $30 million in 2012.

The bidding on Moncada is expected to begin with a signing bonus of at least $25 million, the source said. And unlike fellow Cubans like Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu -- who were all classified as professional players when they signed -- Moncada is subject to international free-agent bonus pool limitations.

Each team is allotted a certain amount to sign international free agents every year, a number that is decided by the reverse order of the past season's standings. For the international signing season running from this past July 2 to next June 15, the Orioles were allotted $2,253,000 for signing bonuses to international free agents. The Houston Astros had the most at $5,015,400.

So signing Moncada to any bonus over the allotted pool money would make a team subject to a luxury tax that would force the team to pay 100 percent of the excess spent. Teams that go over their bonus pool also cannot spend more than $300,000 on a player over the next two signing periods.

Not only would Moncada be pricey, but the Orioles would prefer to not be handcuffed like that as they continue to place further emphasis on international free agents.

The Orioles also have scouted Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas and remain interested in him, but like Moncada, he likely will be too expensive for the club. Speculation is that the 24-year-old Tomas could receive a deal in the $100 million range over seven or eight years.

So instead, the Orioles will continue their recent trend of acquiring lesser-tier international players and allowing them to develop through the farm system.

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Cuban outfielder Dariel Alvarez had a breakthrough year in 2014, hitting .306/.330/.472 with 15 home runs and 87 RBIs at the Double-A and Triple-A levels while also showing great range in center field in his first extended playing time there. Alvarez's arm is already considered the best in the organization. He signed for $800,000 in July 2013.

The Orioles are also high on 17-year-old Dominican third baseman Jomar Reyes, who hit .285/.333/.425 in 53 games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2014. The Orioles believe the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Reyes -- who signed for $350,000 -- could move through the organization quickly.

The organization also has high hopes for two other international teenagers, Dominican right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (not to be confused with the Orioles major league pitcher of the same name) and Dominican right-hander Ofelky Peralta. Gonzalez received a $400,000 bonus and Peralta received $325,000. Both players performed well in instructional league.

The signing bonuses handed out to Reyes, Gonzalez and Peralta are believed to be the highest handed out to Dominican-born players by the Orioles. They offered more to Cuban-born players like Alvarez and Henry Urrutia, who received $778,500 in 2012.

Still, it appears that the Orioles intend to stay clear of the big-money bidding for the most highly-touted Cuban players and stay on their current path of signing lower-cost international players and developing them on their own.

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