US nixes deal for Major League Baseball to sign Cuban players

Virginia Santiago
April 10, 2019

For its part, the Cuban Baseball Federation slammed the Trump administration and said, "Attacks with political motivation against the agreement achieved harm the athletes, their families, and the fans". A senior administration official told the Washington Post that the release fees that the MLB had to pay to the Cuban Baseball Federation for players under the former deal was equivalent to "human trafficking".

A list of 34 Cuban players who were to be eligible to play in the MLB had been released by the Cuban Baseball Federation on April 3. "The administration looks forward to working with Major League Baseball to identify ways for Cuban players to have the individual freedom to benefit from their talents, and not as property of the Cuban state".

This process would have all but negated the human-trafficking aspect of the risky terrain Cuban defectors have had to face in order to play Major League Baseball. "Any contrary idea is false news".

However, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) - part of the Treasury Department - said the agreement violated USA trade law.

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The present administration determined that "a payment to the Cuban Baseball Federation is a payment to the Cuban government", effectively shutting the avenue for making a deal within the existing legislative and regulatory systems. Major League Baseball teams would have been able to sign Cuban players who are 25 or older and who have at least six years of experience in FCB without the consent of the FCB.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said MLB's payments to Cuba was more like a "ransom", and that the island nation wants "legalized trafficking of persons". 'America's national pastime should not enable the Cuban regime's support for Maduro in Venezuela'. Generally prohibited from departing the island to sign with MLB clubs, Cubans wishing to play in the affiliated ranks must defect, establish residency in another country, and then seek clearance from the league.

Chapman defected from Cuba in 2009 while with the Cuban national baseball team in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and signed with the Reds in 2010.

Cuban-born Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, speaking through a translator before Monday night's game with the Houston Astros, said, "I just feel bad for those young ballplayers who are probably not going to have the same chance to play here".

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When Puig finally reached USA shores in 2012, he was rewarded with a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The player would also have to pay Cuban income taxes on foreign earnings.

That money, which was not to be deducted from the player's salary but be paid on top of it, would have been used to help Cuba further develop its baseball program.

In exchange, the Cuban federation had agreed to release all players aged 25 and older with at least six years of professional experience.

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