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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.

  • Ben

    this is some terrible news to read right after a terrible stock market day LOL

    • hansman1982

      is was a great day for me – all bonds today – let them eat cake!

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Not good news

  • BT

    Um… Darn.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I keep trying to explain to myself why I’m overreacting in my concern (this is “comment Brett” talking, not “author Brett” – comment Brett is a fan like everyone else, prone to overreaction and negativity). But I can’t convince myself. I’m very, very concerned.

      • Cubmig

        I am too. What if there is a ripple effect that has retroactive implications? How might that threaten current Latino players?

  • oswego chris

    do you think they sit around in little rooms behind the glass like in the movie Taken and push buttons while a creepy voice describes the Cubans?

    “This one looks to be in his early 20’s, and is a shortstop”
    “This left-handed beauty throws in the low 90’s and could easily sucker some MLB team into a multi-major league deal at 1.5 per”
    “These two are siimilar to the ones the White Sox bought from us years ago”

    that’s what I picture now when I hear “human trafficking”

    • cjdubbya

      If Theo Epstein pulls a Liam Neeson role in this movie, I’m all for it. Except he’s the one buying, and they’re all treated fairly, and they star in a World Series title team on the North Side.

      So Neeson’s bad-a$$-ness from this movie, while not exploiting the people being purchased.

      Obviously this is all very much tongue-in-cheek, because human trafficking by itself is despicable.

      • Ogyu

        The next Austin Powers movie:

        Dr. Evil: All I’m asking for is a few freaking Cuban baseball players with freaking laser beams on their heads!

        • calicubsfan007

          Love it

  • Ogyu

    [commence undue fretting…]

  • JulioZuleta

    Try to look at it on the bright side. If he doesn’t hit free agency by July 2, every team will basically be able to offer him the same amount (give or take). All things being equal, where is he going to sign? My money is on the team that recently signed a few of his teammates/buddies, and was the team that likes him so much that they were ready to pay more than anyone else in the first place. This could end up working out well. Soler for $2.something mil rather than Soler for $27.5 mil? Not too bad.

    • Joker

      I admire your optimism.

      • JulioZuleta

        Just sayin’ it’s not a foregone conclusion that we sign him if he hits before July 2, and it’s not a foregone conclusion that we don’t if he hits after July 2. As much as I want him, I think we all know deep down that there’s a more than likely chance that signing him to a big money deal (like any big money deal for a prospect) probably won’t work out. I know it could work out incredibly, and he could develop into a star, but I think we can agree it’s more likely than not that he does NOT hit his ceiling, or come all that close to it.

        • Steve

          Thats the Cubs spirit Julio!!! Sad but true…
          Now, lets save that $$$ and overpay for _______ and ______ that will end up being bad contracts like Soriano.
          This new CBA crap is wrecking havoc already!!

  • Steve

    Soler Schmoler…This whole thing is an enigma. I am stil of the opinion that he doesnt even exist and was created by the PR department of the Cubs….

  • JoeCub

    :shrug: Soler isn’t real anyway. There’s more proof for the existence of Big Foot.

  • Cub Style

    Jorge! Where art thou?!

  • baseballet

    Brett, are you cracking the books this weekend to brush up on international law? Will your next post on this subject cite arcance legal precedent and be cluttered with complicated footnotes? Just when you thought you were out they keep pulling you back in.

  • Bric

    No need for that. Just check out the Hatfields and McCoys on the History Channel.
    “Be you a Hatfield or be you a McCoy?” – That’s all the international law you need.

    • Ogyu

      Sorry, but I missed that. Too busy watching “Mermaids: The Body Found” on Animal Planet.

  • ibcnu2222 (John)

    Are there any rules against signing him for a year or two at 2 mil per and then extending his contract for what we would have normally paid him?

    • Kyle

      Yes.

      • ibcnu2222 (John)

        Any details?

        • hansman1982

          you cannot have an unwritten agreement to do that which is what you would have to have to do that.

  • Cubs Dude

    Is that Aramis Ramirez in that pic? I didn’t know he was involved in the trafficking of Cubans.. Interesting.

    • Joe

      I think it’s Soto!

  • Cliffy

    @BenBadler: A Dominican judge has released Edgar Mercedes without charges http://bit.ly/L3BVid

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      That was… fast.

      • Joe

        The judge is probably on Mercedes’ payroll.

        • Ogyu

          Or perhaps somebody pointed out that trafficking in baseball players is the core of the DR’s national economy.

  • calicubsfan007

    I really hate red tape…

    • calicubsfan007

      … and guys who screw up kids’ futures

  • die hard

    Why is anyone surprised? Moving high priced talent is second biggest industry behind drugs…probably a competitor turned him in…

  • Kevin

    The Cubs need to be very careful asking for public funds to renovate Wrigley Field. With public funding the Ricketts family will be putting the Cubs in a more vulnerable position which would allow the city and state to have even more control over them.

    Please read this article:

    The team’s ability to make money is limited by restrictions placed on it by the city — restrictions that don’t apply to other major league teams. The stadium’s landmark status makes it harder for the Cubs to increase earnings from advertising and sponsorship deals. The city limits the number of night games played at Wrigley. Everything from special events to cosmetic improvements has to be negotiated with neighbors and nearby businesses, including the owners of rooftop bleachers. So the city ties the team’s hands and then tells the owners to figure out how to make their numbers work.

    Is there any news to report today from Illinois General Assembly?

    • die hard

      The Skokie Cubs may be the team’s future

  • nkniacc

    Be ver y interesting to see if the Cubs take a underslot pick with one of their 2 sandwich picks or maybe both in order to go after a bit more talented/tough to sign players in the 2nd and 3rd rd

  • Assman22

    Soler officially a free agent!

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