Many of you might remember Cuban defector Dariel Alvarez, a 24-year-old outfielder from Camagüey, Cuba, who defected the communist island last summer. Along with fellow defector Aldemys Diaz, the Cuban duo were set to work out in front of MLB teams with the hope of being signed all the way back in December. The workout was postponed, pushed back to January, and then postponed indefinitely. According to Jamie Torres, the agent representing both defectors, MLB was demanding that both Alvarez and Diaz obtain an unblocking license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control before engaging in contract negotiations with MLB teams.
The United States, of course, continues to maintain an embargo on Cuba, and these economic sanctions prevent actors within the U.S. from engaging in business ventures with businesses or individuals on the island country. In order to do so, special permission must be obtained from the U.S. government to engage in transactions that would otherwise be prohibited. Normally, players who defect from Cuba claim their new homes as their permanent residences and are able to engage MLB teams that way; Yasiel Puig and Jorge Soler did just that last year, using Mexican and Haitian residency documents, respectively, to work out their contracts.
Though both Alvarez and Diaz are claiming Mexico as their new permanent residences and have the necessary documents to prove these claims, MLB wants the duo to obtain an unblocking license instead. Though Torres does not know why, and is obviously frustrated that MLB wants the pair to go that route, the fact that MLB has been investigating Diaz for claiming to be older than he actually was may have something to do with the hurdles the two players are encountering.
Well, an unblocking license has either been obtained, or MLB has let up and has recognized the validity of Alvarez’s Mexican residency documents, because a showcase for scouts to watch him was held on June 26. As you can see from the video below, cheesy videos showcasing Cuban defectors and hyping their workouts are the new market inefficiency.
As before, any potential suitors will not have to worry about his signing counting against their international bonus pool funds. For the 2013-2014 period, the Mets will have $2,664,600 dollars to spend on international amateur players, and should they seek to sign the Cuban outfielder, none of the money he receives will come from this pool. The current MLB collective bargaining agreement states that Cuban defectors over the age of 23 that have three or more years of professional experience playing baseball are not subject to international free agent restrictions and are considered free agents. Specifically, the text says,
"Bonuses paid to International Players will not count toward a Club's Signing Bonus Pool in the following two circumstances:
A) Players who previously contracted with a Major or Minor League Club.
B) Players who are least 23 years of age and have played as a professional in a league recognized by the Commissioner's Office for a minimum of five seasons. During the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 signing periods, Cuban players who are at least 23 years of age and have played as a professional in a Cuban professional league for a minimum of three seasons will be covered by this exemption. In all signing periods following the 2013- 2014 signing period, Cuban players only will be exempt if they are 23 years of age and have played as a professional in a Cuban professional league for a minimum of five seasons."
(For any of you who want to read the actual document, it is on MLB's website here, and is actually a somewhat fascinating read.)
As was also the case a few months ago, the price for Alvarez’s services will likely not be cripplingly high. Though Yoenis Cespedes, Puig, and Soler all received large contracts over the past two years, either in terms of dollars or in contractual length, all are considered better overall talents than Alvarez. A contract tendered to Alvarez would certainly not have the annual value of Cespedes’s contract ($9 million dollars per year), the overall value of Puig’s contract ($42 million dollars), or the length of Soler’s contract (nine years).
Of course, different scouts see different things. When the Dodgers signed Yasiel Puig, their scout, Larry White, so fell in love with the outfielder based on what he saw and what he believed Puig could become that he decided to sign the player to his eventual seven-year, $42 million dollar contract upon watching him only once at a workout that Puig himself almost did not make. Other scouts had much more tempered expectations regarding his talent and his ability to translate those skills into results in the major leagues. Regardless, because Alvarez is older, because he does not have the ‘mystique’ that surrounded defectors like Cespedes, or relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman, and is unlikely to start his North American career in the major leagues, like Alexei Ramirez, it is unlikely potential contracts get too out of hand.
Owing to the delays and a relatively weak market for his services to begin with, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding where Alvarez will land, if anywhere. As reported months ago, the Minnesota Twins and the St. Louis Cardinals both expressed interest, while the Marlins were uninterested. Many months have passed since then, and the situations of nearly all 30 MLB teams have changed since December 2012 and January 2013.