— Fred Claire can see the day when Major League Baseball
teams open academies for prospects in Cuba.
absolutely a natural, just as the Dominican was and
Venezuela. You go to where the talent is," the former
Los Angeles Dodgers general manager said Wednesday.
"The high talent level for Cuban players is still
talent has faced obstacles getting to the U.S. since 1961,
when the United States terminated diplomatic relations
with Cuba. President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the
two nations were re-establishing relations.
to the major leagues for Cuban players has often involved
smugglers who bring them out of the island nation for a
price. It's hard to foresee exactly how that will change
in the short-term, or whether MLB teams will be allowed to
invest resources in the communist country.
there are not sufficient details to make a realistic
evaluation, we will continue to track this significant
issue, and we will keep our clubs informed if this
different direction may impact the manner in which they
conduct business on issues related to Cuba," MLB said
in a statement.
Cuban-born players appeared in the major leagues this
year, a group that includes outfielders Yasiel Puig and
Yoenis Cespedes, and hard-throwing reliever Aroldis
Chapman. There have been 59 since 1995, according to
received large contracts, topped by a $72.5 million,
seven-year agreement in August between outfielder Rusney
Castillo and the Boston Red Sox. Chicago White Sox first
baseman Jose Abreu was voted AL Rookie of the Year this
season after agreeing to a $68 million, six-year deal with
the Chicago White Sox. Yasmany Tomas, an outfielder who
may be shifted to third base, signed $68.5 million,
six-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks this
of the American trade embargo, a player who defects from
Cuba has to obtain a license from the U.S. Treasury
Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to
"unblock" him before he can sign with a major
league organization. It would take congressional action to
lift the embargo.
remain hopeful that today's announcement will lead to
further positive developments," the Major League
Baseball Players Association said in a statement.
government has approved a policy allowing athletes to sign
in foreign leagues and pay tax on their earnings, but the
U.S. embargo prevents American teams from employing Cuban
residents. Well regarded outfielder Alfredo Despaigne
agreed this year to a contract with the Chiba Lotte
Marines of Japan's Pacific League.
players have established residency outside the U.S. in
order to become free agents and not be subject to MLB's
amateur draft. But free-agent riches could come to an end
in 2017, when MLB teams hope to start an international
MLB's collective bargaining agreement with the players'
association that runs until December 2016, Cubans and
others who reside outside the United States, Canada and
Puerto Rico are included in each MLB team's international
signing pool unless they are 23 or older and have played
as a professional in a professional league for at least
penalized for exceeding their signing bonus pools. The New
York Yankees, Boston and Tampa Bay have forfeited their
rights to give any international player a bonus over
$300,000 in the next two signing years, which start each
the union instituted similar signing pools in 2012 for
players covered by the amateur draft each June. But Cuban
defectors remain exempt from those limits for now.
American players, many of them have a lesser standard than
what's offered international players," said agent
Scott Boras, who has criticized restraints on contracts
for players in American high schools and colleges.
"We've really got to review what we're doing with our
draft and our international players to really say what we
do with the Cubans. Maybe it will prompt a broader
discussion to revamp the entirety of the system."