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MLB proposal would allow Cuban players to sign with teams without defecting

MLB proposal would allow Cuban players to sign with teams without defecting
Yasiel Puig had to defect from Cuba to end up with the Dodgers. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Major League Baseball presented a proposal that would allow clubs to sign players out of Cuba beginning next year, rather than forcing them to first defect from the country and establish residency elsewhere, to teams at the winter meetings in Las Vegas last week, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

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The plan, which resembles the posting system for Japanese players, stipulated major league teams would pay 25% of a player’s minor league bonus or 15% to 20% of the total guaranteed value in a major league deal to the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) as a release fee, possibly in addition to other fees, none of which would count against clubs’ international amateur bonus pool money.

Defectors would face “a waiting period” and major league teams still would be required to pay a release fee to the FCB to sign a defector. Scouting on the island would remain prohibited.

An MLB spokesman declined to comment.

Because of the United States’ embargo on Cuba and Cuban law prohibiting professional sports, any deal would require negotiating with both the U.S. and Cuban governments to generate a legal avenue for Cubans to play in the U.S. without being forced to abandon the country.

Since the embargo was installed and the Cuban government eradicated professional baseball on the island in the early 1960s, Cuban players have had to defect and establish residence in another country before being allowed to sign with a major league club. The requirement often forced players and their families to use human traffickers and face dangerous journeys.

Yet more and more players have defected Cuba to play in the big leagues since the early 1990s. The crop includes the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig and other big league stars including Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hernandez, Jose Abreu, Aroldis Chapman and Yoenis Cespedes.

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