Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cuban outfielder Puig defects

Cuban outfielder Puig defects
Workout for Major League scouts expected this week
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com | 06/19/12 4:25 AM ET

The latest Cuban prospect expected to hit the market just might be the
most coveted young outfielder to leave the island in the last 12 months.

Outfielder Yasel Puig, 21, has defected from Cuba and is in the process
of establishing residency in Mexico, the first step to becoming eligible
for free agency, his agent Jaime Torres said.

A showcase for Major League scouts is tentatively scheduled for later
this week in Mexico City.

"As of Monday morning, I submitted information to Major League Baseball
and the Players Association that he has taken up residency in Mexico and
will shortly establish legal permanent residency in Mexico," Torres
said. "We should have documentation of his legal permanent residency in
Mexico soon and as soon as I have that, I will submit it to Major League
Baseball and I hope and expect that he will be declared a free agent

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Puig is a known commodity in international
circles. He played two seasons for Cienfuegos in the island's top
league, Cuban National Series (Serie Nacional), and was a member of the
country's national team that finished second in the 2011 World Port
Tournament in The Nethelands.

"There has not been a player as proven and as young to come to the
States from Cuba," Torres said. "It's one thing to come to the United
States at 19 or 20 years old with a few at-bats or some experience on a
national level but this guy has years of national experience under his

Puig is not as seasoned as fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes, a familiar
member of Cuba's National team who signed a four-year, $36 million deal
with the A's in February, but he has more experience on the country's
highest level than outfielder Jorge Soler, who signed a nine-year, $30
million deal with the Cubs last week.

Soler made a name for himself playing for Cuba's Junior National team
and in the country's Junior circuit but saw limited action for Havana in
Serie Nacional.

"You have heard the other names because Puig was in Cuba and Soler and
Cespedes were out of the country, it's that simple," Torres said.
"Before Soler got to the Dominican Republic, very few people knew who he
was outside of his Junior experience. Puig played in the Serie Nacional
and was projected to be the right fielder for the national team for the
upcoming years. Scouts know who Puig is."

Puig hit .276 with five home runs during his first campaign with
Cienfuegos in 2008-09 and had a breakout year the next season, hitting
.330 with 17 home runs and 78 RBI. He did not play for Cienfuegos during
the 2011-12 seasons because he was being disciplined, Torres said.

"He's been planning to leave Cuba for more than a year and I am told he
has been caught trying to leave Cuba several times," Torres said. "When
he left The Netherlands last year, they suspected he was going to defect
and he was suspended. He was reinstated to the reserve team for
Cienfuegos, basically Triple-A, and then he was caught trying to leave
the country again and suspended from the reserve team again."

Puig's value, in addition to his status, is to be determined.

Once he gains residency in Mexico, Major League Baseball can declare him
a free agent, but he still must be legally cleared by the U.S. Treasury
Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control before he can sign a contract.

He must also sign with a Major League club before July 2, or he will be
subject to new CBA guidelines that will limit spending on international
prospects to $2.9 million per team without penalty.

Soler was declared a free agent June 2 and signed with Chicago nine days
later. Cespedes signed with Oakland 19 days after he was declared a free

"We should all be on the same page by July 2nd in order to have the
clubs evaluate him and sign a contract before the new rule kicks in,"
Torres said. "Under the CBA, if the player receives documentation that
he has established residency in a third country he will be declared a
free agent immediately just like Cespedes. Cespedes supposedly
established residency and the next day he was declared a free agent. I
expect the same thing to happen with Yasel Puig."

It's already been a busy year for Cuban prospects. In addition to the
signings of Cespedes and Soler, pitchers Armando Rivero and Omar Luis
Rodriguez, along with Cuban outfielder Henry Urrutia were also declared
free agents at the beginning of the month when Soler became available.

Luis Rodriguez, like Puig, must sign before July 2 or be subjected to
the new CBA rules.


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