Trump administration ends Cuban baseball deal

Trump administration ends Cuban baseball deal

Photo Credits: JEREMY DANG / AGGIE

Obama-era deal allowing Cuban players to sign directly with MLB clubs reversed

Earlier this month, the Trump administration moved to terminate a deal with the Cuban Baseball Federation that allowed Cuban players to sign directly with Major League Baseball teams. The move is a reversal of a deal drawn up by the Obama administration.

When explaining the rationale behind the decision, the Trump administration argued that the previous deal was a “violation of trade laws” due to the fact that the Cuban federation was a part of the Cuban government. Various Cuban sports corporations, including its national Olympic committee, have insisted that they are completely separate from the government in Havana; however, the President’s administration has rejected all of the sports corporations’ attempts to claim independence.

Under the Obama administration’s plan, if a major league team wished to sign a Cuban player, the team would have to pay a “posting fee” to the Cuban Baseball Federation, which legally allows the individual player to leave Cuba and return back to the country whenever they wish. This is the exact system that the United States still uses to sign South Korean and Japanese baseball players.

The now-terminated arrangement also placed a limit on which players were allowed to be signed, citing that Cuban players over the age of 25 and with six years of playing experience were eligible to be signed by a MLB team; players younger than the age minimum were required to gain permission from the Cuban Baseball Federation in order to play for an American team.

“The U.S. does not support actions that would institutionalize a system by which a Cuban government entity garnishes the wages of hard-working athletes who simply seek to live and compete in a free society,” said Garrett Marquis of the National Security Council. “The administration looks forward to working with MLB to identify ways for Cuban players to have the individual freedom to benefit from their talents and not as property of the Cuban state.”

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton tweeted a statement that preceded the deal, saying, “Cuba wants to use baseball players as economic pawns — selling their rights to Major League Baseball. America’s national pastime should not enable the Cuban regime’s support for Maduro in Venezuela.”

A statement defending the old deal was released by the MLB, saying that the league “stand[s] by the goal of the agreement, which is to end the human trafficking of baseball players from Cuba.”

While Cuba has produced players that have proven to be vital icons to the American major leagues, many of these players have come forward to testify to the horrors they experienced when they left their country. Many have been forced to leave Cuba illegally, and, in a lot of cases, these players were smuggled over the border by human traffickers and “disreputable” agents, often crossing rough waters on speedboats.

Following the Trump administration’s announcement, Chicago White Sox’s first baseman, Jose Abreu, claimed that he is still harassed by those who smuggled him over to the U.S. Aroldis Chapman, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, expressed that he thinks it is “bad in the sense that [Cuban ballplayers] can’t come [to America] anymore in the formal, legal way that was planned.”

Earlier this April, Cuba released a list of 34 players who were authorized to sign with MLB teams under the old deal. However, these players and many more will now have to find alternate routes if they hope to play professionally in the U.S.

Written by: AJ Seymour — sports@theaggie.org