06/26/12 8:44 PM ET
Cuban outfielder Puig declared free agent
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
Puig, 20, recently established temporary residency in Mexico, the first step to becoming eligible for free agency, and he can now meet with clubs to discuss the parameters of a deal. He cannot enter into a final agreement with a team until he is unblocked by the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
At least five teams have expressed serious interest in Puig's services, according to an industry source. He must sign with a club, have the contract approved by Major League Baseball and pass a physical before July 2, or he will be subject to new CBA guidelines that will limit spending on international prospects to $2.9 million per team without penalty.
The outfielder is expected to garner a multiyear Major League deal that rivals the nine-year, $30 million contract that fellow Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler received from the Cubs earlier this month and Yoenis Cespedes' four-year, $36 million deal with the A's in February.
A top prospect in the island's top league, the Cuban National Series (Serie Nacional), Puig hit .276 with five home runs during his first campaign with Cienfuegos in 2008-09 and had a breakout year the next season, hitting .330 with 17 home runs and 78 RBIs. He did not play for Cienfuegos during the 2011-12 seasons because he was disciplined for attempting to defect.
Puig, a former member of the country's national team, is expected to be unblocked by OFAC in accordance with the new guidelines that create a general license authorizing Major League teams to do business once permanent residency outside of Cuba (and not in the United States) has been established.
Before last year, a specific license from OFAC had to be requested for the block to be lifted, and the subsequent investigation often took up to six months, meaning it could take six to nine months from defection to a free agency.
That is no longer the case, and it could be part of the reason it has been such a busy year for Cuban prospects.
In addition to the signings of Cespedes and Soler, left-handed pitcher Omar Luis Rodriguez signed a Minor League deal worth $4 million with the Yankees last week. Left-handed pitcher Gerardo Concepcion signed a five-year, $6 million deal with the Cubs in February.
Pitcher Armando Rivero along with outfielder Henry Urrutia were also declared free agents at the beginning of the month and are also seeking deals.