Yesterday teams made their bids for Jorge Soler, according to his agents, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll learn of a signing today or this weekend. The agents could take the best offer and bounce it off other teams, even if they say they were asking for sealed, best-and-final bids (whatever showy methodology they wanted to use).
But, since that bidding deadline passed, we might start getting some insight into the teams who are leading the charge for Soler’s services – besides the Cubs, of course.
From the sound of things, the Houston Astros – under increasingly impressive new GM Jeff Luhnow – probably made a bid, assuming that’s how the actual process shook out yesterday
“We continue to have interest in Soler and that’s the most I can say right now,” Luhnow told MLB.com. “We’re aware of the process and if there’s anything report, we will let you all know.”
One team thought to be in the running, the Miami Marlins, is not. So says Juan C. Rodriguez, who reports that the Marlins didn’t even bid on Soler. Is it because they knew they couldn’t win? Did they know that the dollars were going to reach such a level that it wasn’t worth it to them? Or do they fear something else about signing Soler?
Something like … documentation shenanigans? From Baseball America’s Ben Badler:
Soler, a 20-year-old outfielder, left Cuba last year and arrived in the Dominican Republic, where he has been living and working out for teams. However, according to a memo that Major League Baseball sent to teams, Soler is residing in Haiti.
Due to federal regulations governing American companies and Cuban citizens, Soler’s agents must present either an unblocking license from the U.S. Office Of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) or two permanent residency documents from a new country before Soler can enter into agreement with a team. Soler’s agency, Praver Shapiro Sports Management, has told teams that Soler has the two permanent residency documents. Soler’s agency has not responded to requests for comment.
While age and document fraud are rampant among players in the Dominican Republic, several sources in the international market have said that Haiti is a place perhaps even more notorious for shoddy paperwork and record keeping. As a result, some agents who have worked with Cuban players have said they would never consider trying to have one of their clients gain residency through Haiti. Multiple international sources have indicated that some Cubans may be having a more difficult time gaining residency in the Dominican Republic in recent months ….
Haitian papers would be another red flag in the Soler saga. On Feb. 13, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Cubs had an illegal deal in place with Soler prior to him being declared a free agent or receiving an OFAC unblocking license. The Cubs privately denied the report but declined Baseball America’s request to go on the record at the time. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer emphatically disputed the report six weeks later.
Here’s the thing. Yes, that sounds a little wonky, and might make you want to tug on your collar a little bit. But we’ve got to be big boys and girls and be honest about something: this entire business of bringing teenage players out of Cuba to another country so that they can become “residents” there, with the intention of later earning millions of dollars playing baseball in the United States is a little shady. By its very nature, the process screams out for shenanigans, and, indeed, often requires them (how do you think these kids escape Cuba in the first place?).
You either accept that fact and resign yourself to the belief that, “well, at least he’s probably going to have a better life and he could make the Cubs a whole lot better,” or you question the whole ball of international wax. I won’t criticize you whichever path you choose. But, for me, I’m just not sure any of these reports bug me anymore. I want Jorge Soler as a member of the Chicago Cubs’ organization, and, so long as no one is hurt in the process of getting him here, I don’t much care how they make the hot dogs.
I do, however, want the Cubs to be careful. The worst possible outcome is not losing out on Soler; it’s landing Soler for $30 million and then having him declared ineligible to play in the States for whatever reason (or having him declared 30 years old).