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Cuban star Soler declared a free agent

Let the bidding war begin.


Jorge Soler, 20, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound corner outfielder, considered by many to be the next big Cuban prospect on the scene after Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, has been declared a free agent and is expected to sign with a club in the next few weeks, according to an industry source.

Right-handed pitcher Armando Rivero, outfielders Henry Urrutia, Gerald Sanchez, and teenage left-handed pitcher Omar Luis, who are all from Cuba, have also been declared free agents. All of the players are currently working out in the Dominican Republic.

Soler must sign with a Major League club before July 2nd or he will be subject to new CBA guidelines that will limit spending on international prospects to $2.9 million per team without penalty, but a source said signing before the deadline will not be a problem.

Luis, 19, is also subject to the new CBA guidelines if he does not sign by July 2, but he is also expected to sign this month.

The Blue Jays, Yankees, White Sox, Marlins, Phillies, Orioles and Cubs expressed interest in Soler earlier this year, but it is believed more teams have joined that group. Soler's signing is significant because it could impact how teams approach the First-Year Player Draft on Monday, and their strategy when the international signing period begins next month.

Soler applied for residency in the Dominican earlier this year -- the first step to becoming eligible for free agency -- and was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball on Saturday. All players who are declared free agents must still be legally cleared by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control before they can sign a contract.

Cespedes, who signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the A's in February, followed a similar path. Cespedes was declared a resident of the Dominican Republic on Jan. 24, and he was ruled a free agent by Major League Baseball the next day. Nineteen days later, he was cleared by OFAC and signed with the A's.'s Ken Rosenthal first reported Soler's free agency.