If you’ve been following the Yoan Moncada story over the past couple weeks – even if you’ve been following it closely – you still may be a little confused. Feel no shame, because it’s all a bit confusing, and it seems like some of the involved parties are, for whatever reason, not revealing the entire story about how MLB is treating the free agency of Cuban nationals. If you’ve missed anything on this rather compelling story, you can catch up here, here, here, and here.
Shortest catch-up I can muster: Moncada is a 19-year-old, switch-hitting stud of a shortstop prospect who’s going to get tens of millions of dollars to sign, as soon as he’s officially cleared to sign … unless he’s convinced to wait until after June to sign, which is when a team like the Cubs (listed by Jeff Passan as one of four favorites, together with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers) would be permitted to sign him. In other words, the longer his official clearance takes, the better the Cubs’ chances. Recent reports indicate that clearance could be coming soon, but it’s going to take the U.S. Government assuring MLB that it is safe to deal with Cuban nationals like Moncada, even though he doesn’t have the highest form of clearance (which the Government may or may not be issuing anymore). See? It’s hard to do a brief catch-up on this. Read those links above if you’re confused.
The latest update comes from Ben Badler, who set off many of the revelations of the past week when he reported that the reason Moncada isn’t cleared yet is because MLB is demanding he get a specific license from the Office of Foreign Assets (“OFAC”), rather than the general license that he already has (this is reportedly an MLB policy that Badler reports is not required by the U.S. Government). Read Badler’s piece for the particulars, but the gist is that Badler confirmed with a U.S. official that OFAC does still issue those specific licenses, but, since they aren’t required under current U.S./Cuba relations in this situation, it doesn’t sound very typical with respect to Cubans. Further, because specific licenses aren’t required for Cuban nationals as far as the U.S. Government is concerned, Badler speculates that they may not be high priority for OFAC (which is busy dealing with nationals from North Korea, Syria, etc.).
So, then, does that mean more delays for Moncada? Not necessarily, since, as Jeff Passan reported, it sounds like MLB will be meeting with U.S. officials soon to straighten out exactly what is required of them. If that meeting confirms that no specific license is required, then, boom, Moncada is going to be free to sign, and it’s going to be very difficult for the Cubs to have a legit shot at him.
Since the Cubs have been reported as among the leading suitors, though, we’ll continue to follow this. Moncada is a big deal, and the U.S./Cuba/MLB stuff is also a big deal for the future of Cuban players.