Yes, this is a separate post from yesterday’s “Cubs are pursuing another Cuban prospect” post. This is just something the Cubs do now.
Are you ready to obsess about another top Cuban outfield prospect? Well, too bad, because you’re going to. Hopefully the window for this obsession will be much shorter.
Yasiel Puig, a 21-year-old outfield prospect who defected from Cuba last week, has recently established residency in Mexico, and is hoping to have that process finalized, and to gain free agency from MLB, in time to sign a contract before July 2 – when new international spending restrictions will kick in, dramatically limiting what he’d get paid. The Cubs, among many teams including the White Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Phillies, and Diamondbacks, are reportedly interested in adding Puig to their ever-growing stockpile of Cuban talent.
Puig apparently compares favorably to recently-signed outfielders Jorge Soler and Yoenis Cespedes, at least according to his agent (obligatory winky face).
“You have heard the other names because Puig was in Cuba and Soler and Cespedes were out of the country, it’s that simple,” Puig’s agent Jamie Torres said. “Before Soler got to the Dominican Republic, very few people knew who he was outside of his Junior experience. Puig played in the Serie Nacional and was projected to be the right fielder for the national team for the upcoming years. Scouts know who Puig is.”
Puig is considered to be a bit more polished than Soler, having played at a higher level, and is more of a speedster type. Some call him the fastest player in Cuba. From ESPNChicago:
Puig batted .330 with 17 home runs, 47 RBIs and 78 runs scored in 327 at-bats with the Cienfuegos Elefantes in the 2010-11 Cuban National Series. Later, he averaged .370 in 46 at-bats in the playoffs, at barely 20 years of age.
Puig, who also was considered the fastest player in Cuban baseball, was left off the Cienfuegos team for the 2011-12 season after having been caught on several occasions trying to escape. He finally succeeded in defecting last month.
Torres is confident that, despite the exceedingly short window before July 2, Puig will be a free agent in time for teams to be able to go hog wild on bidding.
“We should all be on the same page by July 2nd in order to have the clubs evaluate him and sign a contract before the new rule kicks in,” Torres said. “Under the CBA, if the player receives documentation that he has established residency in a third country he will be declared a free agent immediately just like Cespedes. Cespedes supposedly established residency and the next day he was declared a free agent. I expect the same thing to happen with Yasel Puig.”
So, how involved will the Cubs be? It’s hard to say. For one thing, we don’t yet have a great grasp on just how much it’s going to take to sign Puig. For another thing, we don’t know whether the Cubs’ resources for this kind of spending are tapped after signing Soler ($30 million) and Gerardo Concepcion ($6 million). Further, while you generally ignore positions when stocking up amateur talent, it is fair to point out that, assuming the Cubs sign top draft pick Albert Almora (they will), they will have already added two top outfield prospects in the 18 to 21 year old range. Would they really want to spend top dollar on another?
Maybe. I’m certainly not ruling it out.
I do know that, if you had a limited amount of time to drum up as much interest as you possibly could, and to drive up the bidding, you would probably want to be dropping the Cubs’ name right now as an interested party. Again, I’m not saying that means the Cubs aren’t truly interested. But I’d be surprised (pleasantly) if they went to the mattresses against teams who lost out on Soler, and outbid them all again.
I’m sure we’ll hear much more on Puig in the next two weeks.