11:28am: Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes tweets that Abreu is currently in Haiti after defecting from the Cuban national team.
MONDAY, 8:27am: Baseball America's Ben Badler cautions that it could be months before Abreu is eligible to sign with a Major League team. As is the case with all Cuban defectors, Abreu will need to establish residency in a new country and then be cleared by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before becoming recognized as a free agent by MLB.
Badler adds that some Major League scouts are split on whether or not Abreu's power will translate to MLB. Some consider his bat speed to be merely "fair," and he also has unorthodox setup and double toe tap in his approach at the plate.
SUNDAY: Slugging first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu has escaped from Cuba and is elsewhere in the Caribbean, Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald reports. It is unclear where Abreu is now (Ebro notes that various reports have placed Abreu in the Dominican Republic and in Haiti), but one agent with whom Abreu has had contact confirms that he is not in Cuba.
If in fact Abreu can make his way into the MLB free agent market, he'd have an enormous impact, likely earning the largest contract ever given to a Cuban player. The 26-year-old hit .453/.597/.986 in Cuba's Serie Nacional in 2010-2011 before hitting .394/.542/.837 in 2011-2012 and .382/.535/.735 in 2012-2013. Also in 2013, he hit .360/.385/.760 in six games for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic.
Those are, of course, stunning numbers, and ESPN Deportes' Jorge Morejon notes that Abreu will likely also benefit from a rising tide of good play by Cuban defectors like Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes. Grantland's Jonah Keri wrote in 2012 that Abreu "just might be the best hitter in the world," and Abreu's entry into the free agent market would surely be accompanied by a tidal wave of hype. Major League teams may not think quite the same way — Keri notes that Abreu isn't particularly athletic, which might dampen teams' enthusiasm somewhat. But he quotes Athletics assistant GM David Forst comparing Abreu to Ryan Howard, which would still make Abreu a very valuable commodity.
Since Abreu is over 23 and has played Cuban professional baseball for more than three years, he would enter the market as an unrestricted free agent. He would appear to be in excellent position to receive more than Puig, who got seven years and $42MM from the Dodgers last June.