Star Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada could begin negotiating with MLB teams within two weeks, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Moncada, a 19-year-old switch-hitting infielder, defected from Cuba for Guatemala in August. His free agency is widely expected to exceed MLB bonus records.
Moncada previously needed a specific unblocking license to play in the United States, but January legislation passed by the Obama administration allows native Cubans who can prove permanent residence in a third country to receive a general unblocking license. Prospects like Moncada would then be able to bypass the application process for an Office of Foreign Asset Controls specific license.
Any person who meets the requirements for a general unblocking license no longer will be issued a specific unblocking license, a Treasury Department official told Yahoo Sports, putting the onus on MLB to verify Moncada’s residency and allow teams to begin negotiating contracts with him. Moncada had been waiting for a specific license from OFAC since late September, sources said, the only hold-up in an expected bidding war for his services.
MLB is seeking a meeting with OFAC in the "near future" to clarify the new regulations and determine if changes to league policy need to be made, reports Yahoo Sports. If a meeting takes place "soon," Moncada could become an eligible free agent within two weeks.
The pool of teams able to sign Moncada is greatly determined by MLB's strict international spending limits in each signing period. The current international 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 and prohibited from signing high-priced internal free agents until the next signing period.
The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs have been the teams most frequently linked to Moncada. The Cubs and Texas Rangers are among the teams unable to sign Moncada until July 2 since they recently signed a high-priced international free agent.
Seven teams have arranged private workouts for Moncada, reports ESPN, including the Dodgers and Yankees, who have both already held them. Last week, Baseball America's Ben Badler reported the Yankees were "the frontrunners" to sign Moncada.
Baseball America has 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