6:26pm: Badler adds (via Twitter) that should Major League Baseball end its previous policy of requiring a specific license, in addition to OFAC’s license, then not only would Moncada be eligible to sign, but second basemen Andy Ibanez and Hector Olivera would also be able to sign immediately.
As Passan writes (and as Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel chronicled recently), changes announced by President Obama allow Cubans that can prove residence in a third country to receive a general unblocking license and avoid the process of being cleared by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The 19-year-old Moncada has a permanent residency document from Guatemala, a Guatemalan National I.D. and a statement from a Guatemalan bank to prove that residency, Passan reports.
A Treasury Department official tells Passan that if Moncada receives that general license, the onus falls on Major League Baseball to clear the player to negotiate with big league teams. Moncada had previously been waiting for a license from OFAC, but changes to the relations with Cuba now shift responsibility to clear him to MLB (which is one of the reasons that Baseball America’s Ben Badler recently reported that MLB, not OFAC, was preventing Moncada’s free agency). The League has drafted a letter and will request a meeting with OFAC to confirm that the changes to the policy, Passan hears.
Passan adds that MLB is rightfully taking caution in their approach to this, as past cases of Cuban players coming to America have been tainted by forged documentation and bribes to expedite the process. Should there be a conflict with the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, penalties could include $1MM in corporate fines, $250K in personal fines and as many as 10 years in prison. The league issued the following statement to Passan regarding the matter:
“MLB has important questions regarding how the new regulations apply to the unique circumstances of Cuban players based on our significant experience in this area, and our discussions with OFAC in prior years. MLB is committed to following the laws of the United States, and will not change its policy requiring that Cuban Players receive a specific OFAC unblocking license until it confirms with all relevant branches of our government, including OFAC, that any new approach is consistent with the law. We hope to receive clarity on this issue as quickly as possible.”
As it stands, the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs remain the favorites, Passan notes. Of course, the Cubs are presently unable to sign Moncada as they are restricted from signing an international prospect for more than $250K after blowing past their international spending limit in the 2013-14 signing period. Should Moncada not sign rior to June 15, the Cubs would again be able to sign him, while the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Angels would be restricted from doing so after exceeding their own international spending limits from the 2014-15 signing period.