LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Cuban shortstop prospect Aledmys Diaz is back in the spotlight and is once again gaining attention from Major League clubs.
Over the summer, Major League Baseball declared the 23-year-old ineligible until Feb. 19, 2014, after he presented a false birthdate in his paperwork. Diaz originally declared that he was born on Jan. 8, 1990, a date that would have made him exempt from signing under the international guidelines established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the date proved to be inaccurate.
In the meantime, Diaz has been working out in Culiacan, Mexico, and has received interest from a list of teams that includes the Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Orioles, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees. Diaz could sign with a Major League team when he becomes eligible to sign in February, according to the infielder's agent, Jaime Torres.
"There are some very good players out right now and more are coming," Torres said. "Let's put it this way: I can predict that a few of the Cuban players that sign between now and Spring Training are going to contribute in the big leagues in the 2014 season and their contribution is going to be significant."
There is a process for players like Diaz.
Any Cuban defector who wants to do business with an American company must first establish residency outside Cuba and the United States, a process that can take several months, depending on the country of residence. Cuban players must also petition MLB to become free agents and be unblocked by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before they can enter into a contract with a club. Unblocking can take several weeks.
Cuban players who are at least 23 years old and have played in a Cuban professional league for three or more seasons are exempt from the international signing guidelines established by the collective bargaining agreement, effectively making them free agents once they are eligible to sign with a big league club.
Diaz could have plenty of company on the free-agent market.
Right-handed pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne, 26, who defected from Cuba while traveling with the country's national team in Europe last summer, has established residency in Spain and is currently working out in Mexicali, Mexico. He is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Wednesday and is expected to begin throwing bullpen sessions for scouts soon. He could also join a Mexican League team. Despaigne has petitioned for free agency with MLB and has not been cleared by OFAC.
Also, 24-year-old left-handed pitcher Misael Siverio, who defected to the U.S. before an exhibition game in Iowa, has established residency in Mexico and is in the process of petitioning for free agency. Right-handed pitcher Antonio Romero, 22, has also been declared a free agent and has been unblocked by OFAC but will not sign until he turns 23 in two weeks. He is currently working out in the Dominican Republic and is expected to star in a series of showcases.
Despaigne, Siverio and Romero are also represented by Torres.
Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena, 23; catcher Yenier Bello, 28; and right-handed pitcher Raciel Iglesias, 23, are also on their way to becoming free agents. First baseman Jozzen Cuesta, 25; catcher Josue Franco, 25; right-hander Rogelio Armenteros, 18; and 25-year old outfielders Rusney Castillo and Dayron Varona are all expected to land on the free-agent market in the near future.