SATURDAY: MLB sent a memo to teams today instructing them not to sign Cuban players, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan reports (all Twitter links). MLB said it hoped to receive advice from OFAC “early next week,” hoping to receive assurances that the league won’t be getting itself into trouble if Cuban players falsify their identities. If it does get those assurances, players like Moncada, Olivera and Ibanez might become eligible to sign right away.
FRIDAY: There has been quite a bit of confusion of late as to how and when a group of high-profile Cuban middle infielders will be freed to sign. The U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) — the agency tasked with administering the United States’ now-loosening embargo against Cuba — has now notified Yoan Moncada in writing that it will not consider specific licenses for Cuban players who are already unblocked via the general license, agent David Hastings tells Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs.
Ben Badler of Baseball America explains the distinction here. In essence, the general license requires only residence in a third country, while the specific license carries more stringent standards. This news effectively means that OFAC will not perform any particularized assessment of Cuban players seeking to sign with MLB clubs.
The result is that, in McDaniel’s words, “the onus is now 100% on MLB.” Badler has previously explained the league’s role in this regard, and the OFAC letter to Moncada’s representative appears to remove any room for interpretation.
Simply put, the league must decide whether simply to accept the general license as sufficient for signing eligibility or find some other procedure to replace the OFAC specific license. If MLB decides to allow the general license to suffice, then presumably all Cuban players who have established third-country residence would become eligible to sign — including, presumably, Moncada and fellow top players Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez.
As McDaniel goes on to explain, the latest industry speculation holds that the veteran Olivera could land a guarantee of between $20MM to $40MM. The younger Ibanez, meanwhile, is expected to land at or slightly above the range of recent signees Roberto Baldoquin ($8MM) and Yoan Lopez ($8.25MM) while also requiring the signing team to pay a near-100% penalty on that amount.