Cuban righthander Raisel Iglesias is one of four Cuban players who Major League Baseball has granted an exception to sign during the league’s “closed period” before the rules for Cuban players change on July 2.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, international players who are at least 23 and have played three seasons or more in a foreign professional league (such as Cuba’s Serie Nacional) are exempt from the international bonus pools. Those rules change in the 2014-15 signing period, which begins on July 2, requiring Cuban players be at least 23 and have played five seasons. Iglesias, the top available Cuban pitcher on the market, is 24 and pitched three seasons in Serie Nacional, so he’s exempt from the pools now but won’t be come July 2.
There is also a “closed period” from June 16 through July 1, when no first-year international players are allowed to sign contracts, regardless of whether they’re subject to the international bonus pools. So 11:59 pm E.T. on Sunday, June 15 is the final minute when teams can submit a contract for an international player, and that would have been the deadline for Iglesias to sign without being subject to the pools.
MLB, however, gave Iglesias (as well as Jozzen Cuesta, Eduardo Rives and Orestes Solano) a special exemption to sign during the closed period. Those players were all declared free agents within the last week, and given the time it took for them to acquire their residency documents and other legal paperwork Cubans have to go through to become free agents, MLB and the union agreed to grant them exceptions to sign in the closed period.
The other consideration is that Iglesias attained his residency in Haiti, and there’s a possibility he could sign a major league contract. For a minor league contract, a club can sign the contract and do the physical afterwards, whereas if a team wants to do a physical on a major league deal, it has to do it beforehand. Doing that for a player in Haiti, even if he’s agreed to terms, would be a challenge.
Iglesias may end up not even needing that extra space until July 1 to sign, but it does give Bart Hernandez and Praver Shapiro Sports Management more wiggle room to finalize a deal. Iglesias was primarily a reliever in Cuba both for his Isla De La Juventud team and the Cuban national squad, and several scouts project him as a solid middle reliever in the majors. He throws 92-95 mph with a sweepy but effective slider and erratic control.
Rusney Castillo, the top Cuban player on the market, will likely sign after July 2, but he will be exempt from the international bonus pools either way, since he played five seasons in Cuba.