According to a report posted earlier yesterday by Ben Badler of Baseball America, Major League Baseball are the ones standing in the way of Yoan Moncada‘s pursuit of a big league contract. It has previously been reported that once Moncada was cleared by OFAC, that he could hold work outs and negotiate with whom he chose. Instead, MLB has put the brakes on Moncada, and any other Cuban player, from signing with teams in the United States–including the San Diego Padres.
Moncada, 19, is considered the best Cuban prospect available, and once he defected from Cuban, he established residency in Guatemala, while awaiting to be cleared by the U.S. Government, which he has. Once the government has deemed the defector eligible by establishing residency in a non-embargoed country, he should be able to enter the United States under their “general license.” For whatever reason, MLB is no longer recognizing that license to allow Cubans to sign. Instead, MLB is requiring players to file for a special license issued by OFAC. With the process taking half a year or longer, this puts a damper on an team looking to sign young Cuban talent, and plans to use them as early as this season.
The Padres are in dire need of a franchise shortstop, entering camp most likely, with Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes on the major league roster, while infielder Ramiro Pena was signed to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Moncada, as has been reported upon by FOB, is considered a game-changer and a franchise-type player. Major League Baseball, when pushed, released the following statement on the matter to Baseball America:
"“MLB is confident with the current plan we have in place regarding signing foreign born players and will abide by the guidelines of the OFAC requirements.”"
Wow, thanks for the newsflash Captain Obvious! If MLB truly wanted to follow the guidelines set forth by OFAC, they would continue to recognize the general license, one that the Los Angeles Dodgers used to sign Yasiel Puig several years ago. MLB is putting the onus of blame on OFAC, but it’s clear that there is another agenda behind the licensing changes. Moncada has already met and been cleared by OFAC, so why hold he, Hector Olivera, and others up from pursuing their American Dream?
For the major market clubs involved in the pursuit of Moncada and Olivera, such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, this could pose very real issues, as both are well beyond their international spending pool limits for 2014-15, and having to wait beyond the June 15th deadline to be able to sign either player, would basically eliminate both, as once the deadline passes, teams that have gone over their limit, only have a mere $300,000 left to spend the next two years. As Badler points out though, if a team knowing that Moncada is cleared by OFAC, could challenge MLB on this legal action, sign the player to a deal, and take matters to court to be awarded the player.
For the Padres, their lack of pursuit of domestic shortstops such as Stephen Drew, Jed Lowrie, or other foreign players like Jung Ho Kang, etc. could derail their off-season plans, especially if Moncada was the intended target the entire time. Once again, MLB has stuck their nose in teams business, where it really doesn’t belong, since the U.S. Government has already signed off on the players entering the country.
On the flip side of the coin, a contrasting report from Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports states that according to an unnamed MLB official, Moncada and Olivera along with other Cuban defectors, won’t be months away from being allowed to sign, but rather are mere weeks from signing their first big league contracts. Unlike the Badler report, Passan explains that the hold up with MLB, is that the responsibility of verifying that defecting players have established residency in a non-embargoed country falls upon Major League Baseball. With this new responsibility, they have to be absolutely sure that a player has followed the rules, as international players, agents, and team representatives haven’t always followed the rules when it comes to age in the past.
International rule enforcement has always been pretty loose, and MLB wants to ensure a proper processing for the large group of Cubans that are attempting to make their way to the United States and sign with a MLB organization. So according to Passan, the Padres aren’t even in the mix for Moncada, but did anyone really see the Padres coming with their other moves this winter either? The window appears to still be open, and whomever’s story you believe, keep your fingers crossed that the Padres are preparing for an all-out effort to sign what could be their shortstop for the next decade…once he’s finally cleared by MLB to sign.
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