Major League Baseball is unsure how President Barack Obama’s announcement of restored diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba will affect the pursuit of Cuban prospects, the league said in a statement Wednesday. League officials lack "sufficient details" to speculate on potential implications.
“Major League Baseball is closely monitoring the White House’s announcement regarding Cuban-American relations. While there are not sufficient details to make a realistic evaluation, we will continue to track this significant issue, and we will keep our Clubs informed if this different direction may impact the manner in which they conduct business on issues related to Cuba,” the MLB’s statement said.
The policy shift could have significant implications for Cuban baseball players, who for decades were forced to use illicit means to gain entrance into America. Cuba is a hotbed for young baseball prospects, with Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu and Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman among the players who recently made an impact in the league after defecting from the island. The Boston Red Sox agreed to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with Cuban prospect Rusney Castillo in August, the largest deal ever signed by an amateur player.
In the past, Cuban players often entered into exploitive deals for the chance to play in the United States. South Florida businessman Gilberto Suarez entered a guilty plea this week for participating in a venture that smuggled Puig into the country in 2012 in exchange for a portion of his seven-year, $42 million contract, ESPN reported. Renewed diplomatic ties between America and Cuba could allow players to legally move between the countries.
Obama announced Wednesday that he and Cuban President Raul Castro had agreed to restart diplomatic relations and relax economic and travel restrictions between the two nations. U.S. officials will also seek to establish an embassy in Havana.
“These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” Obama said in a national address. “Today America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past.”