Let the bidding begin.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler is now officially a free agent and can sign with any team.
We haven’t heard much on Soler over the past couple of months, as he has been waiting to be cleared by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. The 20-year-old Cuban defector isn’t major league ready like A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, but he is highly-regarded for his raw power potential. The Cubs, Red Sox, Orioles, Phillies, Yankees, White Sox and Indians are just a few of the teams who have been mentioned as possible landing spots.
The timing on this is key, as Soler won’t be subjected to the collective bargaining agreement’s new international spending rules if he signs before July 2. In other words, MLB teams can bid as much as they want on him for the next month. He’s expected to receive a contract north of the $15.5 million deal the Rangers gave Cuban center fielder Leonys Martin last year.
UPDATE: Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports that the Cubs have “done their homework” on Soler and are very interested in him. There was a report back in February that the Cubs were expected to sign Soler, so this doesn’t come as a big surprise, but it’s safe to call them one of the favorites.
UPDATE II: Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that while Soler is a free agent, he technically can’t sign with a team yet because his agent must first produce an unblocking license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) or two permanent residency documents. However, MLB likely wouldn’t have declared him a free agent if this was going to be a problem.
Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.
Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.
Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.
Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.
Josh Hamilton was already a long shot to make the Texas Rangers roster, but his shot got even longer today, as he left camp to have his reconstructed left knee examined after experiencing pain.
As Jeff Wilson reports, Hamilton felt discomfort in the knee during the Rangers’ first full-squad spring training workout yesterday. Hamilton has had 10 knee operations in career. Which is a lot of knee operations in case you were unaware.
You have to wish good luck to Hamilton, but at the same time you have to be realistic. The guy has not played in the major leagues since 2015 and even then he didn’t play well, hitting .253 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 50 games. He appeared in one game last year for Double-A Frisco, on April 30. He’ll be paid $24 million this year, mostly by the Angels. One suspects that this will likewise be his last spring training.