The closer formerly known as Leo Nunez could make a return to Major League Baseball in 2012, either as a member of the soon-to-be Miami Marlins or as trade bait before the start of the season.
Marlins President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest expressed optimism Tuesday afternoon that Juan Carlos Oviedo (nee Leo Nunez) will have his identity and immigration issues sorted out in time for next season.
The closer was placed on the restricted list late in the season as he boarded a flight to the Dominican Republic to turn himself in for playing under an assumed name. Oviedo had spent his entire career known as Leo Nunez, the name of a childhood friend.
"I’m not real comfortable going into the ins and outs of it," Beinfest said on Tuesday, "but we have been in communication with Baseball. There's been some work quietly on the immigration side and his status. He’s been very cooperative and the team has worked very hard to try to get clarity."
Now that his name is Juan Carlos Oviedo, Marlins fans won't get to call him the Leocoaster, which may be the most disappointing aspect of the entire affair.
Beinfest was fuzzy on the details, but intimated that Oviedo may be able to return to the United States and play baseball next season. He is arbitration-eligible, and the Marlins may not want to pay him the $5 million-plus he could be worth in 2012.
If Oviedo is cleared to play, he could have some trade value if the Marlins want to deal him. Nunez was the subject of numerous trade rumors before the 2011 trade deadline, and it is likely that some other team will want him if his identity and immigration issues are resolved this winter.
"We're all hopeful he's going to be back here as Juan Carlos Oviedo and back in the country and issued a visa," Beinfest added, "then we can work on the business side of it."
Not that the Marlins are depending on Oviedo. "We have contingencies," Beinfest said. "I don't think we can have a firm plan. It's a little bit fluid given the situation."
November has only just begun, and Beinfest may have already uttered the understatement of the month.