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Cuban star Jose Dariel Abreu defects

The first baseman could command the biggest free-agent contract ever given to a Cuban player.

Koji Watanabe

UPDATE 8/13 11:45 a.m. ET: Baltimore Orioles outfielder Henry Urrutia, a teammate of Jose Dariel Abreu's in Cuba, has confirmed that Abreu is out of Cuba, reports Jesse Sanchez of

Urrutia received a call from Abreu on Sunday from an undisclosed location outside of Cuba letting him know that he was safely out of the country. Urrutia expressed delight at the possibility of his good friend joining him stateside soon:

"It was great to hear that he was out of Cuba. He's really happy but he's obviously a little nervous right now since he just left and we talked about that. Teams in the United States are going to love him...

"He's a humble man and he comes from a rural area of hard-working people. He's going to get a good contract, I know that. I won't be surprised if he gets the biggest contract ever given to a Cuban.

"He's amazing."

It's unclear whether Abreu has selected representation yet, but no matter what it will take some time until he's cleared to negotiate with MLB clubs.

ORIGINAL: Power-hitting first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu defected from Cuba and is somewhere in the Caribbean, a pair of agents told Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald. Ben Badler of Baseball America confirmed the report.

Abreu, 26, is considered by many to be Cuba's best hitter and could command a bigger contract than fellow Cuban defectors Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig. The slugger posted huge numbers in Cuba's Serie Nacional, hitting .382/.535/.735 in 2012-2013.

It will likely be several months before Abreu signs with a major-league team, according to Badler. Abreu will need to establish residency in another country, have Major League Baseball declare him a free agent and the U.S. government's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will need to clear him before he can sign.

Abreu is expected to set off a large bidding war whenever he hits the market. The Red Sox and the Rangers have the money to sign Abreu and don't have expensive commitments at first base, making them the early favorites.

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