- Enrique Rojas, ESPNdeportes
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig could be declared a free agent, making him able to sign with an MLB team as early as next weekend, his agent told ESPNDeportesLosAngeles.com on Tuesday.
The Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks are some of the teams that already have expressed interest in Puig, a 21-year-old outfielder who defected from Cuba a couple weeks ago and established residency in Mexico this week.
"We already sent the commissioner's office all the documentation required in order to apply for free agency, including the approval of Puig's residency in Mexico. With residency in hand, it's a matter of a couple of days before he is declared a free agent," according to Jaime Torres, who previously has represented many Cuban baseball players, including pitcher Jose Contreras, shortstop Alexei Ramirez and outfielder Dayan Viciedo.
Torres said Puig will be training this week with Diablos Rojos de Mexico of the Mexican Summer League and that on Friday, he will hold an exhibition of his talent for all major league organizations at Foro Sol Stadium in Mexico City. By that time, Puig already could be a free agent.
Under the new rules that regulate the hiring of Cuban ballplayers, upon receiving permanent residency, known as FM2 in Mexico, Puig will not need to be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the agency of the U.S. Department of the Treasury that enforces the sanctions of the United States embargo against Cuba.
"It will happen next weekend or the first two days of next week. No later than that," Torres said.
Time is of the essence for Torres and his client. On July 2, the new rules that limit the expenses of MLB teams on international players without experience goes into effect. The difference between whether he becomes a free agent before or after that date translates into millions of dollars.
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.