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Star prospect Yoan Moncada is a free agent after Major League Baseball overhauled its rules regarding Cuban players, paving the way for a bidding war to sign the 19-year-old infielder, sources familiar with the situation told Yahoo Sports.
Players who present sworn affidavits to Major League Baseball stating they are residents of another country, have no intention of returning to Cuba and are not Cuban government officials can sign with major league teams immediately, sources said. MLB distributed a memo to teams Tuesday afternoon outlining the changes.
Previously, the league required a specific unblocking license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Recent changes in the government’s policy regarding Cuba prompted OFAC to no longer issue specific licenses in cases where the person fulfilled the criteria for a general unblocking license – such as permanent residency in a third country.
Moncada left Cuba for Guatemala, where he obtained multiple documents showing his permanent residency, according to sources. Included in the league’s memo is specific language a team can use in an affidavit, which the player will file prior to his signing, sources said. In addition to Moncada, second basemen Andy Ibanez and Hector Olivera would be eligible to sign immediately.
Moncada is the jewel of the group, the most highly touted Cuban prospect in years, and he could command an $80 million-plus investment between his signing bonus and the dollar-for-dollar penalty it will incur for pushing teams over the international amateur signing limit. Among the favorites are the game’s most moneyed teams: the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. Though Moncada is free to sign now, he could bide his time, according to sources. He has multiple workouts scheduled toward the middle and latter third of February, including second visits with the most interested teams, sources said.
The explosion of the Cuban market after star turns from Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu and others could be nearing its apex with Moncada. MLB’s concerns over Cuban players were heightened with stories of alleged human trafficking with Puig and Texas center fielder Leonys Martin, and before the league overhauled its policy, it wanted to consult with OFAC to ensure it would not be running afoul of the Trading With the Enemies Act were players found to have forged residency documents.
Using affidavits provided enough protection to satisfy the league, and after months of waiting, the Moncada frenzy officially begins.
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