There's another highly-touted Cuban player set to join the free agent market, and both the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox reportedly have interest. Yasiel Puig is a 21-year old outfielder who played at a higher level than new Cub Jorge Soler while putting up comparable numbers to Yoenis Cespedes, the 26-year old Cuban outfielder who signed with the Oakland A's this offseason.
Seven teams are supposedly in on Puig, with the Cubs and White Sox among them. Because of new rules in the CBA regarding international spending, Puig has to sign before July 2. As the outfielder recently established residency in Mexico, everything is shaping up for another wild bidding war over a Cuban outfielder, likely every bit as intense as the one the North Siders won to secure Soler.
Puig is represented by Jamie Torres, an agent who has also represented fellow Cubans Jose Contreras, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo. Given those names and Sox's love affair with Cuban players, one has to figure Kenny Williams and the South Siders will be certainly be in the running for Puig after missing out on Cespedes and Soler.
Puig has certainly been productive playing against high levels of competition in Cuba. The outfielder batted .330 with 17 home runs and 47 RBI in 327 at-bats with Cienfuegos Elefantes in the 2010-11 Cuban National Series. He hit .370 in 46 at-bats in the playoffs as a 20-year old. According to an ESPN report by Enrique Rojas, he's also considered the fastest player in Cuban baseball.
Here's what Puig's agent had to say:
"There has not been a player as proven and as young to come to the States from Cuba," Torres said. "It's one thing to come to the United States at 19 or 20 years old with a few at-bats or some experience on a national level but this guy has years of national experience under his belt."
Additional stats can be found at Clay Davenport's website.
Puig is 6-foot-3, 210 lbs. If the White Sox get him, he could immediately become the team's top prospect. If he lands on the North Side, the farm system Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have worked to bolster becomes even more impressive. Stay tuned.