Prized Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada is officially a Major League Baseball free agent, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Moncada, who will turn 20 in May, is a switch-hitting infielder who defected from Cuba for Guatemala in August. His free agency is widely expected to exceed MLB bonus records.
Until recently, Cuban players were required to apply for a specific unblocking license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control in order to be eligible to sign with a Major League team. However, changers to government policy earlier this year no longer require such licenses for foreign players. Instead, the establishment of permanent residence in a third country (Guatemala, in Moncada's case) is now enough for a general unblocking license.
After consulting with OFAC, MLB determined league policy would allow players to enter free agency with a general unblocking license, reports Yahoo Sports.
Moncada could receive more than $80 million between his signing bonus and the dollar-for-dollar penalty a team would incur for exceeding the international amateur signing limit. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers have widely been considered favorites to land Moncada.
MLB has strict spending limits during each international signing period. The current signing period runs until June 15, and the next one will begin July 2. Teams that exceed their allotted international signing funds will be taxed heavily for that period and will also be prohibited from signing high-priced international free agents until the following signing period.
Moncada has already held private workouts with a number of teams, including the Yankees and Dodgers, ESPN.com reported last month. He could take his time choosing a team, according to Yahoo Sports, as more workouts are scheduled later this month.
In August, Baseball America described Moncada as "the best teenager to leave Cuba since Jorge Soler, a player with exciting tools and dominance of the Cuban junior leagues on par with what Yasiel Puig did at the same age."
- Mike Fiammetta