We haven’t heard much of anything on Jorge Soler, the 20-year-old Cuban outfield sensation who has been trying to establish residency in the Dominican Republic for several months now. There was a time earlier this year when you couldn’t go two days without a new report. And then, silence. No one can find anything out.
Could it be because there was a huge investigation going on about the way Cuban players have been shuttled into the DR to establish residency for the purposes of playing pro baseball in the U.S.? Could it be that there’s something shady to the whole process (well, shadier than the obvious)? Could it be that officials in the DR have put up roadblocks in the process while they investigate?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but there was a bit of a bombshell dropped today when Edgar Mercedes, one of the most important figures on the international baseball scene, and the advisor who helped bring Yoenis Cespedes to the U.S., was arrested in the DR for human trafficking. From Ben Badler at Baseball America:
Edgar Mercedes, the powerful Dominican trainer who represented Yoenis Cespedes and has been a part of some of baseball’s most expensive international amateur signings, was arrested yesterday in the Dominican Republic on charges of smuggling Cuban players into the country.
While the charges are technically called human trafficking, they stem from bringing Cuban baseball players into the country in what police have labeled a criminal organization …. Authorities also seized boats, cars, phones, radios, GPS devices, passports and other documents.
The usual caveats apply: we don’t know all of the details, and we don’t know if this guy has actually done anything wrong. Also, “human trafficking” is a loaded charge, so it necessarily comes with an added layer of discomfort, even if this isn’t quite what you think of when you hear of the term.
Mercedes is not, to my knowledge, directly involved with Jorge Soler. But given the nature of these allegations and his huge role in the Latin baseball community, you can understand why this could throw a huge wrench in the Soler residency process (if it hasn’t already). Badler notes the same on Twitter.
I don’t want to cause any undue fretting, because this could turn out to be nothing, or at least could turn out to have no impact whatsoever on the Soler process. But, like I said, I think you can see why I’m nervous. Arrests create questions. Questions create delays. Delays create gridlock.
This is a developing story, and I’m sure the impact on the Latin baseball community, and on Soler, specifically, will fleshed out in the coming days.
If Soler is not signed before July 2, the new CBA’s spending caps apply to his signing (each team gets just $2.9 million total for the next year), and whatever financial advantage the Cubs might have had in signing him will probably be gone.
UPDATE: As noted in the comments, Mercedes was apparently taken before a judge who released him without any charges. So, um, ok. Not exactly how things would play out here in the States, but good for Mercedes, I suppose. What this means for Soler, however, remains unclear. My fears about the build-up of red tape remain largely unaffected.
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