When Yoan Moncada recently signed with the Boston Red Sox, he joined the long list of Cuban baseball players to leave the country to play for Major League Baseball. Around 200 Cuban players have defected in the past two decades, and some represent the upper echelon of Major League talent—Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes come to mind.
But how do these players find themselves in a MLB contract? Plus, with the improved situation between the United States and Cuba, will defection become a thing of the past?
Cuban players were once free to play in the United States, with Cubans playing in both Major League Baseball and the Negro Leagues.
After the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro’s rise to leadership, he forbade these players from playing abroad. Thus, players left Cuba as defectors, aiming to reach the big dollars of the MLB.
However, players rarely defect to the United States itself. Defecting to the US means that these players must enter the MLB draft, while taking citizenship of another country allows them to be signed as free agents.
For example, Jose Abreu (last year’s AL Rookie of the Year) and Aroldis Chapman took residency in the Dominican Republic and Andorra, respectively.
Defection is not always a success, though—Puig attempted to defect several times before being successful (with a story that would be an article itself).
Oddly enough, Moncada didn’t defect from Cuba at all. In June of last year, Moncada was granted the ability to leave the country by the Cuban government to pursue a career in the MLB. This grant shows a possibility of defections being a thing of the past.
The improvement of relations between the United States and Cuba this past December has already began to have an effect on baseball.
Now, instead of having to get a specific license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, all players need to get is a signed affidavit stating they have established residency in a separate country.
A possible deal has been discussed, and changes could occur as soon as the next collective bargaining agreement between owners and the Player’s Association.
What comes next for Cuban players and Major League Baseball remains unseen.
But, for the most part, days of leaving under the guise of night or defecting while at international tournaments seem to be in the past.
Whatever the case may be, improved Cuban relations will have positive implications on Major League Baseball.