Here's an interesting new wrinkle in the Yoan Moncada sweepstakes. According to this report by Ben Badler, the holdup in getting him unblocked and eligible to sign does not reside with the US Dept. of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control as many believed, but rather with MLB itself.
"Any Cuban national who presents documents showing permanent residence in a country outside of Cuba qualifies for OFAC’s 'general license,' which is not a written document. As far as OFAC is concerned, that should make him unblocked, and that’s good enough for the government to allow him to sign.
The holdup is that MLB won’t let Moncada—or any Cuban player, for that matter—use the general license any more. That wasn’t always the case. Yasiel Puig, for example, signed using the general license. It’s not clear what exactly changed, but at some point in 2012 after Puig signed in June that year, MLB no longer allowed Cuban players to sign using the general license and instead required them to apply for the specific license, which is a written document from OFAC...
"MLB issued the following statement to Baseball America on Sunday: 'MLB is confident with the current plan we have in place regarding signing foreign born players and will abide by the guidelines of the OFAC requirements.'
Except, by the OFAC guidelines, Moncada has met the criteria of the general license to be considered unblocked, and he is not alone. Cuban second basemen Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez have both obtained residency in a third country. Yet none of them has signed yet because they are still awaiting response from the government on their application for the specific license that MLB requires."
Did you get all that? Basically MLB has arbitrarily decided to change the finer details of the process they've had in place for years to make it more difficult and more time-consuming for Moncada and other blocked players to get cleared to sign with a team.
Why would they do that? My answer is admittedly jaded by my Yankee allegiance, but I think it's a clear and deliberate attempt by MLB to prevent the Yankees from signing Moncada. And not just the Yankees, but every big money teams who has already exceed their 2014-2015 international spending limit and would still be eligible and willing to sign Moncada during this signing period.
MLB put those spending restrictions in place to try to level the playing field and give the smaller market teams a better chance to compete on the international FA market. The Yankees and other teams said "eff that," overspent anyway as a way to keep leveraging their monetary advantage, and now MLB is going to slowplay the Moncada unblocking as a way to punish them. He won't be cleared to sign until after June 15th of this year, which will begin the next signing period, put the Yanks, Red Sox, and others out of contention for him thanks to their overspending penalties, and all the other teams will have a better chance at landing him.
It's sad that MLB keeps going to these lengths to try to create an "everybody wins" environment when it's already been proven that spending more doesn't equate with winning more. Teams have figured out how to contend on a smaller budget if they really want to, and the business side of the game has progressed to the point where everybody can and more often does re-sign their good younger players to team-friendlier, long-term deals earlier in their careers. There's no reason to continue to handcuff big budget teams that have the money to spend and want to spend it, especially when it's at the expense of the players who want to come over to play in MLB.
I know this is probably coming off as the ramblings of a spoiled Yankee fan, but I really don't care. Moncada has done what he has to do to be cleared as a free agent by the United States of America. There's no legitimate reason for MLB to hold up the proceedings anymore and the statement they made about it isn't worth the handful of seconds it probably took for some intern to type it out. If this drags on past the June 15th deadline and the Yankees don't even get a chance to sign Moncada, that will be a travesty.
** UPDATE 6:05 PM- Via Jeff Passan, the stalling appears to be over. MLB has drafted a letter to send over to the OFAC and he could be cleared as a free agent within the next 2 weeks. Amazing what a story that paints MLB in a negative light will do to get them to act quickly on something. **
P.S.- No need to thank me for my contributions in kick-starting this action by MLB. I did it for all of you.