- Jorge Arangure Jr.
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Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban defector considered to be one of the top pitching prospects in the world, petitioned Major League Baseball for free-agency status recently and is likely only weeks from becoming a free agent, according to his agent.
Early Monday, Chapman's representatives announced that the left-hander has established residency in Andorra, a tiny country of about 84,000 that borders Spain and France.
By establishing residency outside the United States, the 21-year-old Chapman avoids being subject to baseball's amateur draft. MLB must study his residency and legal paperwork before declaring him a free agent.
"We chose Andorra because of its tranquility, its tax benefits for Aroldis, and also being a commercial mecca of sorts, particularly for its size," Edwin Mejia, Chapman's agent, wrote in an e-mail. "We felt that it could translate to unique marketing opportunities for Aroldis in Europe.
"Andorra is a winter playground for the wealthy and powerful residents of Europe, of which, God willing, Aroldis will be as well. Given all our options it became the perfect choice. He even has health insurance, life insurance, and a pension all before he even signs his first major league contract. We are very proud of this."
Since Chapman has a passport -- a rarity for Cuban defectors -- MLB is not expected to take much time in determining his free-agent status. Chapman's passport helps verify his identity and allows him to immediately apply for a visa to play in the United States. Once he is declared a free agent, teams can officially work him out and begin bidding for his services.
In an interview with ESPN in August, Mejia said teams would have to come to Europe to work out the pitcher.
"Andorra is a beautiful country and has provided an ideal setting for me to prepare myself for professional baseball without distractions," Chapman said in a statement to The Associated Press. "I look forward to becoming a proud advocate for my adopted country."
The New York Yankees have already shown interest in the lefty, whose fastball was clocked at 102 mph at the World Baseball Classic this year. It's also expected that teams such as the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers will at least show initial interest in Chapman.
Chapman defected from the Cuban national team in August during a tournament in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and has been living in Barcelona, Spain.
Jorge Arangure Jr. is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.