Cuban catcher Yenier Bello was cleared by Major League Baseball on Monday, taking a positive step in the long path towards free agency, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet. The veteran backstop is rumored to be drawing interest from multiple major league teams.
The 28-year-old Bello (sometimes referred to as Bello Veloso) defected from his home country earlier this year and is in the process of receiving the all-clear to sign with an MLB club. He's already established residence outside of Cuba and has now been vetted by MLB so the final hurdle standing between Bello and a stateside contract is clearance -- termed "unblocking" -- from the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). That process, however, could take several months.
Bello's numbers differ slightly depending on the resource used, but they all seem to indicate that he is a catcher with some pop in his bat and a cannon behind the plate. According to Cuban-Play.com, Bello batted .276/.324/.458 with 82 home runs during his nine seasons ('03-11) in Cuba's top league while throwing out 50 percent (118 of 236) of the players that attempted a steal with him behind the plate.
Bello is expected to showcase his skills for teams somewhere in Mexico or Arizona in the coming weeks. Once he gets clearance from OFAC, teams will not be held to the usual international spending limits in their negotiations with him because of a special rule for Cuban defectors over the age of 22.