Yasel Puig is going to be the subject of some fast and intense MLB rumors this week after defecting from Cuba and being declared a free agent. Puig, a 6-3, 210-pound, 21 year-old outfielder, must be cleared by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assests and Control before he can sign a deal with a Major League club. However, beginning July 2nd, clubs will have a $2.9 million pool from which to sign international free agents with so the window for Puig to earn a hefty contract is quickly closing.
Puig has established temporary residence in Mexico and believes he will be cleared by the U.S. government in time for him to sign a contract with a Major League club before the July 2nd deadline. Right now, it is believed Puig will have a deal signed by Friday thanks to the new guidelines set forth by the U.S. government that allow MLB teams to do business with players once residency is established outside of Cuba and not in the United States. Previously, it would have taken six to nine months for the U.S. government to clear a player from Cuba.
Puig is considered to be more MLB ready than Jorge Soler, who recently signed a nine-year, $30 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, but with less overall upside. He hit .276 with 5 home runs in his rookie with Cienfuegos in 2008-09. The following year, he hit .330 with 17 home runs and 78 RBI. However, this past season, 2011-12, he did not play because he was being punished by the Cuban government for attempting to defect.
As a prospect, Puig is slightly above average with average power, average bat, good base-running skills, and has passable defense. He is still young enough so that these early projections might mean nothing as he can get better. He is not considered as polished as Yoenis Cespedes but is believed to be more MLB-ready than Soler which will probably equate to a fairly large contract in the area of the one Soler signed with the Cubs.
There are going to be several teams who will be intrigued by Puig. They include the New York Yankees, who signed left-handed pitcher Omar Luis Rodriguez to a $4 million Minor League deal last week. The Yankees also put bids in for Cespedes and Soler. Cespedes signed with the Oakland Athletics and Soler the Cubs but the Yankees were interested enough in both to put in serious bids. With a dearth of upper level prospects in the outfield and Puig being close to MLB-ready, the Yankees might view Puig as worth the risk. The Yankees reportedly bid $20-25 million for Soler so a similar bid for Puig is probably not out of the question.
Other clubs that figure to be in the mix are the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Arizona Diamondbacks. I’m sure there will be more that start to poke around Puig’s workouts in Mexico and a mystery team could emerge. In the meantime, Puig will be the subject of MLB rumors until something becomes official, possibly by Friday of this week.