Cuba could at some point consider adding famous defectors to its national team to play in the World Baseball Classic, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes. “Everything is on the table,” says Cuban baseball commissioner Heriberto Suarez, in Spanish.
“There’s a set of rules as to who can play for whom. Federations ought to put the best teams out there . . . That serves to make the event the best it can possibly be,” says MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. “That’s a decision they have to make. We certainly would be open to it.”
The potential inclusion of Jose Fernandez, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Abreu, Aroldis Chapman, Yasiel Puig and other high-profile players — many of whom left Cuba under incredibly dangerous conditions — to Cuba’s national team would be hugely important for the WBC and for baseball, and would also be important symbolically for US-Cuba relations. Morosi points out, however, that there would be significant obstacles to those players’ participation. There would need to be a working agreement between MLB, the players association, and the Cuban and American governments, with Cuba receiving some sort of posting free allowing Cuban players to sign MLB contracts while remaining Cuban citizens.
Manfred has said that it’s likely some sort of agreement on Cuban players would be reached in talks for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. But the current CBA expires in December, when the US embargo against Cuba (which would prohibit posting fees) will likely still be in place. MLB is reportedly working with the White House to find a solution that allows the movement of players from Cuba to MLB.