Alfredo Despaigne free agency: Cuban slugger could be banned

Koji Watanabe

Jose Abreu 2.0? Only if he gets his passport woes straightened out.

Outfielder Alfredo Despaigne is "one of the biggest stars in Cuban baseball," according to Baseball America's Ben Badler, but he could be positioning himself to become one of the biggest stars in Major League Baseball -- if he isn't banned by the Mexican League first.

The 27-year-old received high praise from Badler, as he does from most evaluators.

For some teams, Despaigne is the best player remaining in Cuba, although Gourriel and second baseman/third baseman Jose Fernandez are also in that discussion, with Cepeda still a talented hitter but already 34 years old. Despaigne is an aggressive hitter prone to all-or-nothing swings out of a stocky 5-foot-9, 215-pound frame, but he has 80 raw power on the 20-80 scale, with more bat speed and the ability to jack balls even farther than White Sox Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu.

That’s why the Mexican League’s decision could have far-reaching effects, ones that could perhaps have an impact on major league teams very soon.

Unfortunately, h has been playing in the Mexican League under a falsified Dominican passport. The league is currently waiting to hear from the Dominican government to make any final decisions, but they have decided to temporarily suspend him for playing with fraudulent documentation -- which could result in a lifetime ban. Despaigne has not defected from Cuba, retaining his citizenship in that country.

If the Mexican League settles on simply declaring Despaigne ineligible to play, he could begin laying the groundwork to become an MLB free agent. However, if he's suspended -- which could be for as long as seven years -- leagues affiliated with Major League Baseball would respect the ban, effectively precluding him from playing in the United States. However, if he's simply declared ineligible rather than banned, returning to the field (and the good graces of MLB-affiliated baseball) might be a simple matter of acquiring the proper paperwork via officially defecting and becoming a Mexican resident.

The next few weeks will be very interesting as the events surrounding the situation unfold. If he does end up becoming a free agent, Jose Dariel Abreu's success in the majors would certainly benefit him in contract negotiations. Abreu signed a six-year, $68 million deal this winter. If Despaigne hits the market, the bidding could become intense -- perhaps reaching into the nine-figure range.

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