Analyzing All of MLB's Latest International Free-Agent Rumors, News

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Analyzing All of MLB's Latest International Free-Agent Rumors, News
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
RHP Raciel Iglesias has established residency in Mexico.

The latest news on baseball's international free-agent front is that a pair of high-profile Cuban players have defected and already established residency in another country.

Right-handed pitcher Raciel Iglesias has established residency in Mexico and is now waiting for clearance to sign with a major league team. Similarly, slick-fielding shortstop Erisbel Barbaro Arruebarruena also defected in the past month and has already established residency in Haiti.

Meanwhile, the inevitable bidding war for negotiation rights with Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka has been delayed, with Nippon Professional Baseball and MLB struggling to see eye to eye on a new positing system.

Here's a look at the other notable international free-agent rumors from around the league.

 

Raciel Iglesias, RHP

Raciel Iglesias has established residency in Mexico, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). The 23-year-old pitcher still has to be cleared by the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Major League Baseball before he can sign with a team.

Iglesias successfully defected from Cuba in October after he was detained on his first attempt after running out of food and water while hiding in the mountains of Isla de la Juventud for the better part of a week.

A 5'11", 165-pound right-hander, Iglesias works in the 92-95 mph range with his fastball, and he's likely to add velocity as he develops physically. Iglesias also shows an advanced feel for adding and subtracting to his sweeping breaking ball, throwing the pitch at 76-81 mph.

As of now, Iglesias's two-pitch mix has him pegged as a future reliever in the big leagues, just as he's been in Cuba over the last few years. However, expect the organization that ultimately signs Iglesias to initially give him consideration as a starter. 

 

Erisbel Arruebarruena, SS

Shortstop Erisbel Barbaro Arruebarruena has left Cuba and hopes to sign with a major league team, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America

Because he's 23 years old and has played in Cuba's Serie Nacional for six seasons, Arruebarruena will not be subject to the international bonus pools. MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez also notes that Arruebarruena has already established residency in Haiti but has not yet been cleared to sign by OFAC and MLB. 

Regarded as the premier defensive shortstop in the Serie Nacional, Arruebarruena also handled the position for the Cuban national team and played in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Badler has only great things to say about Arruebarruena's defensive prowess:

At 6 feet, 195 pounds, Arruebarruena has clean hands, quick actions and good body control. He’s a below-average runner, but his quick first step and instincts give him good range. He has a quick transfer and a plus-plus arm with accuracy, which allows him to make throws from deep in the hole and turn 4-6-3 double plays with ease. His awareness in the field is advanced and he’s shown the ability to make the barehanded play look routine and make strong throws from different angles. Scouts have called Arruebarruena a magician in the field, and if he can hit enough to be an everyday major league shortstop, he has the potential to win a Gold Glove.

While there's no doubt that Arruebarruena's defense will translate in the major leagues, the same can't be said about the 23-year-old's bat, regardless of what his career numbers in Cuba suggest.

Arruebarruena enjoyed a breakout season at the plate in 2011-2012, batting .320/.367/.520 with eight home runs and a 39-19 strikeout-to-walk rate in 306 plate appearances. 

A right-handed hitter, Arruebarruena's lack of physical strength is noticeable in the length of his swing and inefficient bat path to the ball. The pitch recognition is also concerning; he struggles to pick up spin out of the pitcher's hand and frequently overcommits his weight to the front side. As a result, Arruebarruena chases too many offerings outside the strike zone and tries to yank the ball to the pull side when he does get something in the zone.

That being said, don't expect Arruebarruena to suddenly find his home run stroke in the major leagues. With his swing, we could be talking no more than a handful of dingers in a given season.

I've heard the Jose Iglesias comparison tossed around lately and can't say I disagree. However, I wouldn't be surprised if Arruebarruena turns out to be a lighter-hitting version of Iglesias and posts empty batting averages.

Either way, whoever signs him will do so for the glove.

 

Yenier Bello, C

Yenier Bello left Cuba for Ecuador earlier this year and has since established residency in Mexico. While he's already been declared a free agent by MLB, the 28-year-old catcher is yet to be cleared to sign by OFAC and the league.

A 5'11", 225-pound right-handed hitter, Bello batted .274 with 13 home runs in La Serie Nacional in 2011, and he amassed 75 long balls over his last five seasons in Cuba.

 

Rogelio Armenteros, RHP

At 18 years of age, Rogelio Armenteros is younger than most Cuban defectors in recent memory.

In 2009, the right-hander pitched Cuba to a third-place finish in the World Youth Baseball Championship. He spent the 2011-2012 season playing for Equipo Industriales in Cuba's Serie Nacional

According to Armenteros' official website:

Since his departure from Cuba in Mid 2012,  Rogelio has been training in Barcelona, Spain and currently in Miami, FL. Rogelio has developed an impressive array of pitches, which include, four-seam and two-seam fastball, slider, curveball, and change up. His fastball averages between 90-94 Mph’s and he is demonstrating masterful command and control of all his pitches.

If that portrayal is legit, expect the right-hander to draw significant interest from a wide range of teams, especially those that are rebuilding.

 

Yozzen Cuesta, 1B

Yozzen Costa officially defected late in August with the Cuban baseball team playing at the World Baseball Challenge in Prince Georgia, Canada. Basically, he disappeared one day without telling his teammates, leading to the presumption that he was heading to the United States. Costa's choice to defect came roughly two weeks after prolific slugger Jose Abreu. The 22-year-old has a promising bat and should draw interest from numerous American League teams.  

 

Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, Japan (NPB)

No good news to relay regarding Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who is viewed as the top free-agent pitcher on the open market. Roughly one week ago, negotiations over a new posting system between Nippon Professional Baseball and MLB hit a wall when the two parties disagreed on the posting fee and how it's arrived at. If they fail to reach an agreement, Tanaka will have to spend two additional seasons playing Japan.

Thankfully, the two sides are preparing to resume talks in the near future, according to the Japan Times.

Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media

 

P Javier Gonzalez, P Jorge Hernandez and OF Dayron Varona

According to Cuban reporter Ibrahim Rojas (via MLB Trade Rumors), 19-year-old pitcher Javier Gonzalez, 22-year-old pitcher Jorge Hernandez and 25-year-old outfielder Dayron Varona have all left Cuba.

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