Miami-based agent Jaime Torres confirmed a report in El Nuevo Herald (the Spanish-language version of the Miami Herald) that Cuban defectors Noel Arguelles and Jose Iglesias have cleared the unblocking process and have been declared free agents by Major League Baseball.
The duo defected last July in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, during the World Junior Championships. The 19-year-olds took nearly a year to go through the various hoops such as establishing residency (in the Dominican Republic) and being "unblocked," a process all Cubans must go through to ensure they don’t send all their money back home to aid the Communist government there.
Torres agreed that MLB’s new investigations unit and greater scrutiny of all Latin American free agents, stemming from the Nationals’ Esmailyn Gonzalez fiasco, contributed to the longer process for his free agents.
But scouts who saw Arguelles and Iglesias liked them last year at the World Juniors, as the lefthanded Arguelles drew Francisco Liriano comparisons, while Iglesias was likened to Orlando Cabrera, from his stance in the batter’s box to his tools at shortstop.
Torres wouldn’t speculate on eventual signing bonuses but said he’d already been contacted by several teams. Arguelles and Iglesias will test a relatively soft market for Cuban hitters, as only the White Sox of late have spent heavily on Cuban hitters. Alexei Ramirez had a smashing rookie season for the "Good Guys," but he’s slumped a bit this season, with a sub-.700 OPS, and Dayan Viciedo also has a sub-.700 OPS so far at Double-A Birmingham.
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