Major League Baseball has informed teams that Cuban corner outfielder Yasiel Puig is a free agent, though the memo they sent teams is different from the typical one they send when a Cuban player becomes a free agent.
According to the memo, teams are free to negotiate with Puig, but they may not enter into an agreement with him or submit contract terms to the commissioner's office until he either receives an unblocking license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) or provides required proof of legal permanent residency. The memo says that Puig has presented temporary Mexican residency papers to MLB, but he has yet to present an unblocking license or permanent Mexican residency papers. Given that Puig has been in Mexico for so little time, it's a question around the industry how he could acquire either of those documents, though Puig's agent, Jaime Torres, has said Puig has permanent residency documents.
In order for Puig to avoid being subject to the new international signing rules that begin on July 2, a team must submit the contract to the commissioner's office by 11:59 p.m. on July 1. If it's a major league contract, the club most provide the contract terms to the commissioner's office by that time, or submit it through MLB's internal contract database system if he signs a minor league deal. The teams are not allowed to submit anything until he presents the unblocking license or required proof of permanent residency first.
If Puig can't sign by July 2, he will be subject to the new $2.9 international bonus pool limits. Cubans are exempt from the new rules for the next two years as long as they are 23 and have played in a Cuban pro league for at least three seasons (beginning in 2014-15, Cubans must have five pro seasons to be exempt). However, Puig doesn't meet the age requirements and, according to Baseball America's records, he has played just two years in Serie Nacional.
Reports on Puig, 21, have been modest, and other than a few light workouts this weekend, teams are working off limited information. He was suspended this past season in Cuba—some sources believe it was due to his attempts to leave the country, though some teams have conflicting information—so scouts haven't been able to see Puig in game condition since June 2011 for the Cuban national B team at the World Port Tournament in Rotterdam. The Rangers are the only team that Baseball America's sources have linked to Puig.
"How can we evaluate someone like that?" asked one Latin American director.
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