United States players and Cuba players stand on the baselines during the playing of the Cuban national anthem prior to the game at loanDepot park on March 19, 2023 in Miami, Florida. Eight Cuban players who left the island nation have been declared free agents by Major League Baseball. (Photo by Jasen Vinlove/Miami Marlins/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
Eight Cuban-born players were declared Major League Baseball free agents by the MLB commissioner’s office on Wednesday, reported Francys Romero of Beisbolfr.com.
They will be eligible to sign with MLB organizations when the new international signing period begins on January 15.
The eight players who are now free agents are outfielders Yorman Licourt, Luis Daniel Valdes, Rafael Ravelo, catcher Jose Dariel Puig, pitchers Norge Cobas, Luis Macias, Fernando Ramos, and Alain Tandron. Jose Dariel Puig is not related to former MLB outfielder Yasiel Puig, also from Cuba.
All eight players have experience playing in Cuba, most in the Serie Nacional de Béisbol, Cuba’s top baseball league. Luis Daniel Valdes is the youngest player of the eight at 16-years-old, and both left-handed pitcher Norge Cobas and right-hander Alain Tandron are the eldest at 21.
Tandron is unique amongst the pitching group because of his playing experience outside Cuba. During the 2022 Liga Mexicana de Beisbol season, Tandron appeared in four games for the Mariachis de Guadalajara, allowing three earned runs and walking five in three innings.
Cobas has yet to experience much success in the Serie Nacional de Beisbol, posting a 9.72 ERA in 18 career appearances with the Sabuesos de Holguin. According to Francys Romero, Cobas threw his fastball around 88-90 mph at a workout alongside current MLB free agent Yariel Rodriguez, a right-handed pitcher from Cuba who is expected to sign with an MLB organization soon.
Analyzing the position players, it is easy to see why scouts may be intrigued by the outfielder and first baseman Yorman Licourt. The 19-year-old stands six-foot-four, weighs 209 pounds, and bats left-handed.
According to Romero, Licourt fled Cuba in October, seeking an MLB contract. He made his Serie Nacional de Béisbol debut in 2023 with the Vegueros de Pinar del Rio and hit .238 with six RBI in 23 plate appearances in nine games.
The newly-declared free agents join a list of Cuban-born players recently seeking Major League Baseball contracts. On Dec. 14, the MLB commissioner’s office declared right-handed pitcher Danel Reyes and outfielders Alexander Lamontana and Andey Garrido free agents as well. All three players can sign with an MLB organization starting Jan. 15.
On Christmas Eve, Francys Romero reported another young player had left Cuba to seek an MLB contract. Sixteen-year-old right-handed pitcher Robier Hernandez, a former player with the Cuban National team at the 2022 U-15 World Cup, reportedly throws his fastball 88-90 mph. According to reports by Romero on X, Hernandez was astonishingly the 17th player out of 20 from the Cuba U-15 World Cup team to leave the country after the tournament.
Whether the newly declared Cuban free agents will sign with MLB organizations when the international signing period on Jan. 15 begins is unknown. Still, the international Major League Baseball top prospects list has elite talent from Cuba, which could expand soon.
Three of the top 15 internationally ranked MLB prospects are from Cuba, including right-handed pitcher Luis Morales of the Oakland Athletics (No. 6), outfielder Brando Mayea of the New York Yankees (No. 9), and outfielder Ariel Castro of the Minnesota Twins (No. 11).