Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, the 26-year-old star of a YouTube video that catapulted his name into the popular consciousness, has released a second video, complete with as much awesomeness as the first. You can see the video below, and you can read all about it at Baseball Prospectus.
Setting aside the enjoyable sideshow, BP’s Kevin Goldstein notes it isn’t all good news when it comes to Cespedes. For weeks, we’ve all been wondering what was the deal with Cespedes’ free agency. Having defected from Cuba over the summer, and having started the process of establishing residency in the Dominican Republic – a necessary precursor to MLB free agency – most expected Cespedes to reach free agency weeks ago. With a dozen teams, including the Cubs, eager to bid, it’s fair to ask: what’s the hold-up? Why hasn’t the Cespedes sweepstakes started?
Goldstein has the answer, and it isn’t all great news:
Mercedes also told me that he is hoping Cespedes will have his Dominican residency taken care of in the coming days. The latest delay stems from a photo snafu: front and side shots of Cespedes, submitted to the Dominican government for processing purposes, feature the outfielder wearing different clothes, which is not allowed. Unfortunately, Dominican residency is just the first bit of a three-part process. Next, he’ll have to be cleared by Major League Baseball, which should take another two to three days, and because Cespedes is Cuban, the United States government gets involved, as he has to be cleared to sign by OFAC, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, a division of the treasury office. United States businesses and individuals are not allowed to enter into any business arrangements (including baseball contracts) with Cuban companies or individuals under current law, so distinguishing Cespedes as a Dominican could take an additional 10-15 days after MLB declares him a free agent. That pushes the opening of his signing window into January, but interest remains sky high, so he’ll certainly be signed in time for spring training. Cespedes is “anxious. He says he wants to play baseball for real,” relays Mercedes. “He wants to play in a game that counts for something.”
So, if your team is in a holding pattern waiting on Cespedes – which the Cubs may or may not be – you’ll be holding on into January, at least.
The question on Cespedes, though, is whether teams are looking at him as a right-off-the-bat starting outfielder as it is. Some believe, even at 26 and wildly successful in Cuba, Cespedes will need a little time in the minor leagues to acclimate himself both to American professional baseball and to the American lifestyle. If that’s the case, the delay might not mean anything – because the bidding teams aren’t centering their outfield plans for 2012 around Cespedes anyway.
Depending on what happens in the Cubs’ outfield between now and late January, it seems more likely than not that the Cubs are one of those teams whose plans won’t be disrupted by the Cespedes delay. They are interested in the outfielder, but, unless they are planning on dealing both Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano soon, and aren’t planning on adding another free agent outfielder like Coco Crisp, I doubt the Cubs have been penciling in Cespedes as a starting outfielder to open 2012. Like top prospect Brett Jackson, I imagine the Cubs simply view Cespedes as an attractive possibility for the future.
Ok. Enough serious talk. On to the video: