Major League Baseball is investigating the age of Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, according to multiple sources.
Diaz is presenting himself as a 23-year-old born Jan. 8, 1990. However, that date conflicts with previous accounts of when he was born, according to multiple sources. A December 2007 story on the official website of Cuba's top league, Serie Nacional, referred to Diaz being born on Aug. 1, 1990, which would make him 22. When news of Diaz leaving Cuba started appearing in Cuban media outlets last year in July, multiple stories referred to him being 21 at the time, which would match the Aug. 1, 1990 date of birth.
Further complicating the situation is that a roster from the 2010 Pan-American games in Puerto Rico says that Diaz was born in 1991, although there is no specific date of birth listed other than the year.
For Diaz and anyone else who has a percentage in his contract, it's more advantageous for him to be 23 than 21 or 22. While international signings are subject to the $2.9 million bonus pools for the 2012-13 international signing period, Cuban players with at least three years of professional experience in Cuba (which Diaz has) and who are at least 23 are exempt from the bonus pools. MLB, however, has yet to rule on whether Diaz is exempt from the bonus pools.
"I only go by the documentation that I have from the player," said Jaime Torres, the agent for Diaz. "I've seen from different rosters, different ages for players in Cuba, so I don't pay much attention to what is put on the pages from Cuba."
Torres also suggested that the conflicting dates could be a mix-up from the differences in which dates are presented in the United States as month/day/year compared to certain Latin American countries, which present dates as day/month/year.
"Only the player and the family should know the correct date of birth, not the sports authority from Cuba, the Cuban government," Torres said. "What I have, showing his date of birth, is 1/8/90—January 8, 1990."
Torres also said that MLB is insisting that Diaz present an unblocking license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before can enter into agreement with a major league team, even though Diaz and Dariel Alvarez (another Torres client) are claiming permanent residency in Mexico. Due to federal laws about American companies and U.S. citizens, a player must present either a specific OFAC unblocking license or two permanent residency documents from another country, but Torres said MLB is forcing Diaz to go through OFAC. Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig, another Torres client, used permanent Mexican residency documents last year in June to sign a $42 million contract with the Dodgers, while Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler (who was represented by Praver Shapiro Sports Management) used permanent Haitian residency papers to sign with the Cubs. MLB declined to comment this afternoon on Diaz's paperwork or the requirements for entering into agreement with a major league team.
"The next step, the reason why we haven't had showcase, is there's a new issue that's come up that I don't agree with and it's that MLB is insisting on having an OFAC license to sign," Torres said. "The OFAC regulations do not require that. In Aledmys Diaz's case and Alvarez, both players have established permanent residency in Mexico. Both players have at least two or more documents showing that they are permanent residents of Mexico, therefore they are deemed unblocked. We're having that issue looked at right now by the (Major League Baseball) Players Association."
Torres also represented Cuban outfielder Felix Perez when he agreed to a deal with the Yankees in the neighborhood of $3.5 million while presenting himself as a 20-year-old in 2009 before his contract terminated when MLB determined he was using false paperwork and he was really 24. Perez ended up signing with the Reds for $550,000 in May 2010.
Age questions and unblocking issues aside, scouting reports on Diaz's talent remain modest. Though Diaz has played shortstop in Cuba, scouts have said he doesn't have the lateral range, quickness or footwork to stay at the position. Diaz has shown some ability with the bat, hitting .315/.404/.500 in 313 plate appearances for Villa Clara in his final season in Cuba, albeit in a high-offensive environment in which he ranked 30th in the league in OBP and tied for 20th in slugging.
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