Arthur: The Cuban connection in baseball

From SABR member Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus on December 21, 2018:

Cuba is most known in the United States for its flavorful cigars and antique automobiles. But a recent agreement between MLB and the Cuban baseball league ought to unleash an influx of Cuban baseball players in the US. There may not be an increase in the number of exceptional talents like Yoenis Cespedes or Jose Fernandez, but a lower barrier to entry for mediocre players could still reshape MLB’s landscape.

Due to geopolitical forces much larger and more complicated than baseball, Cuban immigrants have for many years been forced to undergo harrowing journeys at the hands of black market smugglers through other countries to get to the US. These often entailed physical danger to the prospective players and surrendering huge amounts of future contract money to the shady criminals who transported them. The thought of such a journey and the hazards it entailed must have been enough to dissuade many a player from putting themselves and their families at risk.

The new agreement between MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation changes all that, allowing players 25 years and older to freely sign with American teams. (Younger players will be limited by MLB’s international bonus pool restrictions.) The terms of the agreement are similar to the posting contracts signed with leagues in Korea and Japan, including a fee paid to the foreign league for each dollar of guaranteed money in the player’s deal. By cutting out the smugglers, the deal aims to make the journey to the US safer and more orderly (not to mention profitable).

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Originally published: December 21, 2018. Last Updated: December 21, 2018.