Much-hyped Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada is free to sign after MLB modified its standards for incoming players from his home nation, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports on Twitter.
With a so-called “specific license” from OFAC no longer needed, MLB will now accept a “general license” combined with a “sworn statement [by the player] that the prospect permanently resides outside of Cuba and has no intent to return to Cuba,” Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs reports on Twitter (quoting from a league memo).
Already technically a free agent, Moncada was awaiting clearance to actually sign a contract. Some uncertainty in the standards had arisen in the wake of recent diplomatic maneuvers between the United States and Cuba, with MLB and the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) reportedly working to sort out the impact of changes in the nations’ relationship.
Moncada is perhaps the most intriguing player impacted by this news, but is presumably not the only one. Fellow middle infield prospect Andy Ibanez was also reportedly awaiting clarification of the new standards. The most immediate impact could be made by Hector Olivera, a veteran standout who figures to join an MLB roster in the near-term but who is still waiting to be declared a free agent, as Ben Badler of Baseball America notes. And the new system will clear a significant roadblock from the way of other Cuban players who can establish residency in a third country en route to the big leagues.
Unlike the 29-year-old Olivera, Moncada and Ibanez do not qualify for exemption from MLB’s international bonus pool system. Accordingly, the winning team will be forced to pay a 100% penalty tax on the amount by which it exceeds its pool allotment — which, if expectations prove correct, could be quite a substantial sum.