Trump administration moves to stop MLB's historic deal with Cuba

The administration of President Donald Trump has opted to move against allowing an agreement that would have allowed Cuban baseball players to play for Major League Baseball teams without defecting.

According to NBC News, the Trump administration moved to overturn an Obama-era decision that said the Cuban Baseball Federation was not run by the Cuban government. The Trump administration said that “a payment to the Cuban Baseball Federation is a payment to the Cuban government,” according to a Treasury Dept. letter to MLB. The letter, obtained by ESPN, was sent to MLB on Friday.

MLB and the CBF reached a historic agreement in December that would allow players to come to the U.S. via a work visa with MLB teams paying the CBF for the players’ rights. But because trade with the Cuban government is illegal under U.S. law, the agreement was essentially canceled.

MLB sought to prevent high-risk defections

The frightening experiences Cuban players like Yasiel Puig and Leonys Martin were behind MLB’s pursuit of this agreement. Both players, like so many of their Cuban brethren in years past, went to extreme lengths to leave Cuba for the chance to play professional baseball in the United States. Martin, an outfielder for the Cleveland Indianswas kidnapped. Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu had to eat a fake passport while on a flight from Haiti to the U.S.

Many of the defections involve paid smugglers. In March 2017, an MLB agent was found guilty of smuggling Cuban baseball players into the U.S.

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Notable MLB players from Cuba
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Notable MLB players from Cuba
Cincinnati Reds right fielder Yasiel Puig hits a two-run double off Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Zach Davies in the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, April 1, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Cleveland Indians' Leonys Martin bats during a spring training baseball game against the Chicago White Sox Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (79) throws a ball to fans during a spring training baseball game against the Chicago Cubs Friday, March 15, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
New York Mets' Yoenis Cespedes watches his team play the San Diego Padres during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 24, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel (10) catches the ball on first base in the second inning against New York Yankees' Billy Burns during an exhibition spring training baseball game on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Oakland Athletics' Kendrys Morales against the Boston Red Sox during a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, April 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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In order to make these horror stories a thing of the past, MLB and CBF reached an agreement that would have allowed Cuban players to receive 100 percent of a signing bonus while MLB franchises would pay a 25 percent release fee (on top of the cost of the player), much like existing agreements with countries like Japan and Korea.

Last week, the Cuban Baseball Federation released a list of 34 players who would be eligible to sign contracts with MLB clubs based on the December agreement. According to the Associated Press, the players were all between 17 and 25 years old, some of whom had “big league potential.”

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