NEW YORK — Yoenis Cespedes, a 26-year-old Cuban outfielder who has established residency in the Dominican Republic, has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball in a note sent to all 30 clubs.
Cespedes, who defected last year from his Caribbean Communist island homeland, established residency in the Dominican Republic, a typical first step for past Cuban defectors who have wanted to become major league free agents.
Should they establish US residency, their playing rights would be subject to being decided in the Major League Baseball Draft.
By taking the path he did, Cespedes sets the stage for what figures to be an intense bidding war that could bring him more than the $30.25 million over six years that the Cincinnati Reds gave Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman in 2010.
Cespedes' agent must handle the paperwork to allow him to sign a major league contract before he can make a deal with a club.
Among the teams Cespedes says have shown interest in signing him ahead of next month's start to pre-season workouts are the Miami Marlins, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians.
Cespedes batted .333 with 33 home runs, drove in 99 runs and stole 11 bases in 90 games in Cuba in the 2010-2011 season and hit .143 with one homer in a short Dominican League stint this season.
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