HAVANA, Cuba — Baseball’s governing body in Cuba, the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB), and Major League Baseball (MLB) announced a historic agreement (to 31 October 2021) that will provide a direct pathway for Cuban players to sign contracts with MLB clubs, tightening relations between Cuba and the United States of America, where baseball is the national pastime.
The agreement permits Cuban players to sign contracts with MLB clubs without having to flee Cuba and establish residence in another country due to the current U.S. embargo with Cuba.
News of the accord generated headlines and ignited reactions across both the sports world and political world, and across social media.
World Baseball Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari said: “This is a historic and very positive initiative that is great for the next generation of Cuban players and our Cuban federation. This agreement has already proven to be a viable model in Japan, where Cuban stars are playing in Nippon Professional Baseball and are welcomed back to their homeland and can compete on the Cuban National Team, which is the highest honour in the country.”
Higinio: «Los firmantes del Acuerdo les ofrecemos a los peloteros cubanos un camino legal y seguro hacia las Grandes Ligas, mediante el cual podemos poner fin al reclutamiento ilegal e irregular de nuestros peloteros» pic.twitter.com/XEkYSeEKKI
— Federación Cubana de Béisbol (@CubanaBeisbol) December 20, 2018
FCB President Higinio Velez told reporters in Havana: “Today is a happy day for Cuban baseball and the baseball world, because FCB and MLB have achieved an agreement that will allow the presence of our players in the Major Leagues…without them having to break off with their country, the Cuban National Series (league) or the Cuban National Team.”
In a released statement, MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred said: “For years, Major League Baseball has been seeking to end the trafficking of baseball players from Cuba by criminal organizations by creating a safe and legal alternative for those players to sign with Major League Clubs. We believe that this agreement accomplishes that objective.”
Under the agreement, FCB will allow all players under contract to the FCB who are at least 25 years old and have 6 or more years of playing experience to sign with MLB Clubs. FCB has the option to release players under 25 years of age.
In return, FCB will receive a transfer fee from the MLB Club that signs an FCB player, which will be between 15% and 20% of the total guaranteed value for Major League contracts, and 25% of the signing bonus for Minor League contracts.