Already this year Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler have landed $36 million and $30 million contracts after defecting from Cuba and another highly touted player is hoping to follow in their footsteps.
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports that 21-year-old outfielder Yasel Puig defected from Cuba and “is in the process of establishing residency in Mexico.”
Once that happens he’ll be declared a free agent, although as Soler showed recently that process can drag on for a long time. In the meantime he’ll hold a “showcase” for MLB scouts in Mexico.
Puig’s agent, Jaime Torres, is talking him up as a rare combination of youth and experience, as the 6-foot-3 outfielder has played in international competition and Cuba’s top league for several years already.
However, unless Puig is declared a free agent almost immediately it’ll be impossible for him to cash in with the same type of huge contract as Cespedes and Soler thanks to the changes to the collective bargaining agreement that go into effect on July 2. In other words, Torres will be racing the clock while Puig is trying to impress scouts.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.