Today, Major League Baseball (MLB) signed a deal with the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) that will allow U.S. major league teams to sign Cuban baseball players living in Cuba.
“By allowing Cuban players to sign to U.S. teams without forcing them to defect, it will finally put an end to the horrific human trafficking of Cuban players and allow Cuban families to stay together,” said James Williams, President of Engage Cuba. “It shows the concrete benefits that can be achieved for the Cuban and American people through a policy of engagement after more than 50 years of a failed embargo policy.”
Previously, under MLB rules and U.S. and Cuban government restrictions, major league teams could only recruit Cuban players who had established residency outside of Cuba. The new agreement will allow FCB players older than 25 or with at least six years of experience in Cuban leagues to be signed out of Cuba and apply for a U.S. work visa while maintaining their Cuban residency.
The FCB will collect a “release fee” on MLB contracts signed by Cuban players. Cuban players who have migrated to third countries but have not yet signed contracts with MLB will face a waiting period of up to two years but will be able to return to Cuba and re-enter the Cuban baseball system. Former FCB players signed by MLB will be able to return to Cuba during the off-season and play in off-season tournaments with their U.S. team’s consent.
The deal models existing MLB agreements with Japan, China, and South Korea, which allow players to “post” for recruitment to MLB clubs before they meet their home leagues’ free agency requirements. This has allowed the MLB to recruit younger professional players who no longer need to meet nine-year minimums for posting eligibility.
Press release from the advocacy group Engage Cuba of Washington, D.C.