According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, Cuban infielder Hector Olivera had a private workout with the Braves on Sunday morning in the Dominican Republic. Badler writes that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and assistant GM John Coppolella were both in attendance, along with a number of special assistants and the organization’s top two scouts.
Olivera is drawing a ton of major league interest after batting .316/.412/.474 during the 2013-2014 season in Cuba’s Serie Nacional. He turns 30 years old in April, but both contenders and rebuilders (like the Braves) are being connected to him. Olivera is expected to sign as a second or third baseman.
The Giants, A’s, Padres, Rangers, and Yankees are among the other teams with reported interest.
While MLB still needs to give their approval, it appears that Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada is one step closer to finally signing with a team. Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com has the story:
David Hastings, the agent for Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, received a notification from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Friday night stating that his player may be generally licensed as an unblocked national, according to new guidelines for a general license amended Jan. 16, 2015.
This should seemingly clear the way for Moncada to sign with the Major League club of his choice.
The letter, acquired by MLB.com, is in response to Moncada’s request to be specifically licensed as an unblocked national, pursuant to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) in a letter sent to OFAC on Sept. 25, 2014.
Section 515.505(a)(2) of the CACR unblocks “any individual national of Cuba who has taken up permanent residence outside of Cuba, provided certain required documentation is obtained and the individual is not a prohibited Cuban Government official or prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party.”
Other Cuban players like Yasiel Puig have previously signed with a general license from OFAC. However, MLB has recently requested a specific unblocking license from OFAC. And that process can take months. That’s why Moncada — who has taken up permanent residence in Guatemala — and other Cuban defectors remain in limbo. However, these new regulations from the government make the extra hurdle from MLB moot, which is basically what the above letter states. MLB is expected to meet with OFAC soon to clarify the situation, so a resolution appears to be imminent.
Moncada is expected to land a deal in the range of $30-40 million and has drawn interest from the likes of the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, and others. The 19-year-old is considered an amateur, so he’s subject to MLB’s international bonus pools. Teams are penalized for going exceeding their specific bonus pool amounts, so the total outlay for signing Moncada could be in the $60-80 million range. Whoever signs him would also not be allowed to sign a pool-eligible player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods. However, Moncada is talented enough for several teams to be willing to take the hit.
High-spending teams like the Yankees and Red Sox are among the favorites to sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, but another team from the American League East is interested even if it’s fair to call them a long shot. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times has the story:
The Rays most likely can’t afford to sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, but they took at him Wednesday during a private workout at the Trop anyway.
Moncada showed impressive power in front of a group of team officials, inlcluding baseball operations president Matt Silverman.
Silverman previously acknowledged that the Rays are unlikely “to be the winners of an auction,” so at least he’s realistic about their chances. Some have estimated that Moncada is likely to land a bonus in the range of $30-40 million. Because he’s 19 and didn’t play at least three seasons in Cuba’s top professional league, he’s still considered an amateur and will be subject to MLB’s international spending limit, so the penalties involved for going over the cap could bring the total outlay of a deal to $80 million. Still, plenty of teams are willing to throw their hat in the ring for the high-upside talent.
We learned earlier this week that MLB was setting up a meeting with the Office of Foreign Asset Controls to officially give clearance for Moncada to sign with a team. If all goes well, he could be able to do so within the next couple of weeks.
We learned yesterday why there has been a holdup on Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada has not yet signed with anyone. An administrative holdup in which MLB is waiting for clearance from the Office of Foreign Asset Controls which the Office of Foreign Asset Controls does not think it necessary to give. That’s . . . not ideal.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo reported last night, however, that MLB officials and the government are discussing the matter and that it may soon be clarified:
MLB was drafting a letter to OFAC on Tuesday asking for a meeting in the near future to clarify the new regulations and potentially change league policy, which requires a specific unblocking license. Should a meeting take place soon, one league official estimated Moncada could be free to negotiate with teams within two weeks.
Sounds like simple confusion, mostly. And that, barring anything unexpected, Moncada should be able to report to camp with his new team. Whichever team it may be.
Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada has been in purgatory for some time. He has permanent residence in Guatemala and has worked out for teams. Moreover, the OFAC — the government office which clears Cuban refugees for entry into and work in the United States — has given him the same sort of clearance that past Cuban players like Yasiel Puig and those before him received.
So why hasn’t he signed? Because, as Ben Badler of Baseball America Reports, Major League Baseball quietly ratcheted up the level of clearance that Cuban players need to sign with teams — demanding that they get a clearance the U.S. government doesn’t require but will, eventually, provide if asked — and that requires significantly more work.
It’s complicated, so go read Badler’s full story. And ask yourself if, based on history, it is particularly surprising why Major League Baseball may want to make it harder for teams to sign free agents.