Yoelkis Cespedes, younger brother of Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, has left the Cuban National Team and defected, reports MLB.com’s Francys Romero. The Cuban National Team was participating in an international exhibition series in the independent Canadian American (Can-Am) Association when the younger Cespedes defected.
Here’s more from Romero:
Cespedes, a 21-year-old center fielder for Granma in the Cuban National Series and considered a five-tool player, is expected to attempt to be declared a free agent and seek a contract with a Major League club. Because he is under 25 and has fewer than six seasons as a professional in a foreign league, he will be subject to MLB’s international signing rules, by which clubs are each subject to a spending cap for amateur international free agents. Each year’s international signing period begins July 2 and continues through June 15 of the following year.
There are still hurdles to clear before Cespedes can sign with an MLB team. Most notably, he must establish residency in a separate country, then be unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Once that happens, MLB can declare Cespedes a free agent. The entire process could take as little as 6-8 weeks or as long as a year, depending on OFAC’s workload.
Cespedes first jumped into the limelight during the 2017 World Baseball Classic. A 19-year-old at the time, he went 4 for 16 (.250) with a double and six strikeouts in five games for Cuba.
Cespedes is a career .273/.334/.411 hitter in Cuba and had gone 3 for 18 (.167) in seven Can-Am League games this summer before defecting. He is similar physically to his brother at the same age, though Yoelkis is considered more athletic and speedy whereas Yoenis was known for his power potential.
Yoenis defected in 2011 and signed a four-year, $36 million contract with the Athletics in January 2012. Yoelkis will receive a much smaller sum given the international spending restrictions MLB has since implemented.