MLB, Cuba reach historic deal to allow players to U.S., hope for Trump Administration approval

After more than two years of negotiating, Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation have struck a deal that would allow Cuban players to join major league organizations without defecting, though the agreement could be scuttled if Trump administration officials roll back Obama-era provisions that paved the way for the historic pact, sources familiar with the situation told Yahoo Sports.

The deal, which is expected to be announced Wednesday afternoon, aims to end the trafficking of players by smugglers – situations that have led to players being kidnapped, threatened and extorted. Players would come to the United States on work visas, and teams would pay the CBF, a nongovernmental organization that runs pro baseball in Cuba, for the release of their rights, according to sources.

Similar agreements exist in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. In the deal with Cuba, which runs through 2021, players who are 25 years old would receive a mandatory release, allowing them to come to the U.S. Younger players would be released at the CBF’s discretion, sources said.

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33 PHOTOS
MLB players who have switched teams over the 2018-19 offseason
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MLB players who have switched teams over the 2018-19 offseason

INF Manny Machado

Left the Los Angeles Dodgers in free agency to sign with the San Diego Padres

(Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

OF Bryce Harper

Left the Washington Nationals in free agency to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

OF Yasiel Puig

Traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Cincinnati Reds

(Photo by Keith Birmingham/Digital First Media/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

2B DJ LeMahieu

Left the Colorado Rockies in free agency to sign with the New York Yankees

(Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

OF Matt Kemp

Traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Cincinnati Reds

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

RHP Joe Kelly

Left the Boston Red Sox in free agency to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers

(Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

C Yasmani Grandal

Left the Los Angeles Dodgers in free agency to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers

(Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

2B Robinson Cano

Traded to the New York Mets from the Seattle Mariners

(Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

RHP Edwin Diaz

Traded to the New York Mets from the Seattle Mariners

(Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

RHP Jeurys Familia

Left the Oakland Athletics in free agency to sign with the New York Mets

(Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

RF Andrew McCutchen

Left the New York Yankees in free agency to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies

(Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

INF Jed Lowrie

Left the Oakland A's in free agency to sign with the New York Mets

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

RHP Ivan Nova

Traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Chicago White Sox

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

LHP Patrick Corbin

Left the Arizona Diamondbacks in free agency to sign with the Washington Nationals

(Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

1B Paul Goldschmidt

Traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the St. Louis Cardinals

(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

SS Jean Segura

Traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Philadelphia Phillies

(Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion

Traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Seattle Mariners

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

1B Justin Bour

Left the Philadelphia Phillies in free agency to sign with the Los Angeles Angels

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

1B Yonder Alonso

Traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Chicago White Sox

(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

OF Michael Brantley

Left the Cleveland Indians in free agency to sign with the Houston Astros

(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)

RHP Matt Harvey

Left the Cincinnati Reds in free agency to sign with the Los Angeles Angels

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

RHP Anibal Sanchez

Left the Atlanta Braves in free agency to sign with the Washington Nationals

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

DH Nelson Cruz

Left the Seattle Mariners in free agency to sign with the Minnesota Twins

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

RHP Kendall Graveman

Left the Oakland A's in free agency to sign with the Chicago Cubs

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

RHP Charlie Morton

Left the Houston Astros in free agency to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

Outfielder Domingo Santana

Traded by the Milwaukee Brewers to the Seattle Mariners

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Infielder Daniel Murphy

Left the Chicago Cubs in free agency to sign with the Colorado Rockies

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

RHP Joakim Soria

Left the Milwaukee Brewers in free agency to sign with the Oakland A's

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

RHP Andrew Miller

Left the Cleveland Indians in free agency to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

2B Jurickson Profar

Traded by the Texas Rangers to the Oakland A's

(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

RHP Trevor Cahill

Left the Oakland A's in free agency to sign with the Los Angeles Angels

(Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

2B Brian Dozier

Left the Los Angeles Dodgers in free agency to sign with the Washington Nationals

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

RHP Shelby Miller

Left the Arizona Diamondbacks in free agency to sign with the Texas Rangers

(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Major league teams would pay a release fee on top of the money owed a player. For those under 25, the fee would be 25 percent, and only the money paid to the players would count against the team’s international signing-bonus pool. For those 25 and over, who are considered professionals, the fee would be on a sliding scale between 15 and 20 percent.

In cases where players still defect, sources said, there will be a mandatory waiting period until they sign. The 25-and-over professionals would need to wait until the next free-agent signing period, which starts about a week after the World Series end. The penalty is far harsher for younger players: They would wait until July 2 after a defection, according to sources. Should a 16-year-old defect in June 2019, he could sign July 2, 2020. If he were to defect in August 2019, though, he wouldn’t be eligible to sign until July 2, 2021, under the agreement’s rules.

The frightening stories of Cuban defectors – from the kidnapping of Leonys Martin to José Abreu eating a fake passport to the conviction of agent Bart Hernández on smuggling charges – showcase perhaps the ugliest side of MLB. With the Obama Administration loosening restrictions on business in Cuba, MLB engaged the CBF in hopes of stemming the abuse of Cubans who simply want to play baseball.

Meanwhile, the league’s work in Washington, D.C., showed the importance of a deal with Cuba. MLB spent $1.32 million lobbying last year and $999,000 through the third quarter this year on matters dealing with Cuba, according to financial-disclosure documents. While there is significant support for the agreement among players and others who have long hoped to see Cuban baseball find its rightful place in the heart of MLB, government hardliners – and expats who believe any deal with Cuba is wrong – could pressure MLB to abandon it.

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World Series odds for every MLB playoff team
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World Series odds for every MLB playoff team

8. Atlanta Braves: 12/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

7. Colorado Rockies: 10/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

6. Cleveland Indians: 17/2 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)

5. Milwaukee Brewers: 15/2 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

4. New York Yankees: 6/1 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

3. Los Angeles Dodgers: 9/2 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

2. Boston Red Sox: 15/4 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

1. Houston Astros:  7/2 odds

Via Vegas Insider

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Despite years of lobbying and negotiating, MLB remains unsure how much, if any, pressure the government wants to exert. The hope, according to sources, is that the mission of the deal – to make the path safer for players – outweighs any concerns from the National Security Council or other governmental entities that could oppose the deal.

Should the government choose not to intervene, players could begin coming to MLB as soon as today, according to sources. Further, it could pave the way for Cubans in the U.S. already to potentially join the country’s World Baseball Classic team when the tournament returns in 2021.

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