The Trump Administration has rejected an agreement between MLB and the Cuban government, which had allowed Cuban players to sign with MLB teams without first having to defect, Jeff Passan reports.
The agreement was rejected on the basis that the Cuban Baseball Federation is an arm of the Cuban government, and thus, payments to the CBF (which would be provided for under the agreement) “is a payment to the Cuban government,” and is “prohibited unless specifically licensed by [the Treasure’s Office of Foreign Assets Control].”
This is disappointing news on a couple of different levels. First of all, players having to defect in order to play in MLB makes it harder for MLB to land those players, and there are generally delays involved with players establishing citizenship somewhere and then being cleared to sign.
More significantly, however, players who defect can find themselves in situations where they end up kidnapped by those who they are seeking assistance from in leaving the island. Leonys Martin’s captors ended up going to prison, while Yasiel Puig was also subject to threats and extortion. This decision means that players who want to play in MLB have a heightened risk of being victims of traffickers or kidnappers, and puts their safety, and that of their families, at risk.