Earlier today, Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes’ Dominican Winter League team revealed that he would no longer be playing with the team after a two-week stint. I guessed that was a prelude to an announcement regarding residency, and, if my elbow can stand the reach to my back, it looks like I nailed it.
According to Cespedes’ advisor, Edgar Mercedes, the outfielder’s residency has come through in the DR (a necessary precursor for a Cuban defector to come play in the States), and is now awaiting MLB’s approval of his free agency. From there, he’s open for bidding, and things could happen very quickly.
The Cubs and Marlins are believed to be the 26-year-old’s two most active suitors right now, but, as the Tigers proved today, a team can come out of nowhere and scoop a guy up at the last minute (incidentally, the Tigers’ scooping – of Prince Fielder, in this instance – probably limits the money they could offer to Cespedes (the Tigers were previously considered in the top tier of suitors, together with the Cubs and Marlins)).
The Cubs have been in on Cespedes for months now, but no one yet has a great sense of just what his price tag will be. The low end of estimates has him topping the six-year, $30 million deal Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman got from the Reds a couple years ago, and the upper end has Cespedes pushing $60 million (presumably over six years). The Marlins have openly said that they’ll bid aggressively for Cespedes, right up to the point of “stupidity.”
The report does not discuss whether fellow defector Jorge Soler, a 19-year-old outfielder, has also achieved residency. Either way, Soler may not sign for a while yet, given that he’s more of a true prospect than Cespedes, who’d like to at least get a chance to show what he can do in Spring Training.
UPDATE: Dominican writer Dionisio Soldevila says Cespedes has been granted free agency, too. I followed up with Soldevila to confirm that he meant free agency in addition to residency, and he said that “[Cespedes’] agent Edgar Mercedes says so.” It’s possible we won’t get some big, formal announcement of free agency, so this may, in fact, be the first report of it. Alternatively, free agency is still a few days away, and there’s merely some confusion about residency and free agency. Either way, the bidding is about to ramp up (if it hasn’t occurred already).