The United States’ move to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba could eventually have significant impact on the market for Cuban-born players within Major League Baseball, a market that has in recent years produced important talents like Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas. “Major League Baseball is closely monitoring the White House’s announcement regarding Cuban-American relations,” says MLB in a statement. “While 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.” Here are a few links describing potential changes.
- MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez notes that there could be changes to the laborious and often dangerous process through which Cuban-born players typically make themselves available to MLB teams. Players generally must defect from Cuba (often by traveling by boat to Mexico or Haiti), then establish residency in a country that is neither the US nor Cuba. The process is time-consuming and can be perilous. It’s not yet clear whether, or how, that process will change after today’s announcement (particularly since the United States’ economic embargo toward Cuba is still in effect and likely will remain so for the foreseeable future), but there’s hope that it might create a path toward something new.
- The move to reestablish diplomatic relations paves the way for MLB teams to play exhibitions in Cuba, and for the Cuban government to let Cuban MLB players represent their home country at international events, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes. It’s less likely that teams would establish academies in Cuba in the way they have in the Dominican Republic. “I don’t think that will happen,” Cuban baseball expert Peter Bjarkman tells Morosi. “Normalizing relations means things like travel restrictions. I don’t see Cuba giving up its economic system or opening the door to exploitation by foreign corporations.” (Via the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore on Twitter, however, one team’s Latin American scouting director says his team has already considered the details of building a new Cuban academy.)
- Baseball America’s Ben Badler suggests one future scenario (via Twitter): The Cuban government could sell their players to Major League teams, taking a share of those players’ salaries. The Cuban baseball league system’s relationship to MLB could therefore be like that of the Mexican League.