The Cuban Muscle Situation
By Fred Owens
(A Note to readers. You may have seen some of the information in a post last week that was later withdrawn due to copyright issues. Those have been resolved and I apologize for the unintentional error.)
Recent changes in diplomatic relations with Cuba may soon make it easier for Cuban baseball players to play in the majors. For now however the only way for players to get here is to defect. That causes multiple problems for the player and the teams deciding whether to sign them.
The Process Today
The process of defecting from Cuba is a dangerous one. A simple search on Yasiel Puig’s defection turns up tales of corruption, threats of physical harm and demands of unreasonable compensation from the smugglers. They’re criminals, not good Samaritans. The Cuban Government has been diligent in capturing and severely punishing those who attempt to escape the island and defectors often fear for their family’s safety.
According to the Thursday Review the process works like this. Once a player successfully defects there are certain administrative and political hoops they must jump through before becoming eligible. The first thing they must do is establish residency. Typically that’s been in Haiti or the Dominican Republic but a few have done it in Mexico and Moncada used Guatemala. That process takes weeks and sometimes months.
Establishing residency outside of Cuba automatically grants what’s called a general license allowing them to earn money here. In the summer of 2012 however MLB stiffened their personal requirement so that players also had to obtain a special license from the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC ). That has added months to the process but the diplomatic moves of the past few weeks and pressure from Badler and Baseball America to explain the license process has changed the game.
According to Badler on Friday the OAFC wrote telling players they didn’t need the license and therefore existing request by players were moot and would not be dealt with. That mean MLB’s rule is dead and player should be start turning up in the system more quickly. The player also has to request that MLB declare him a free agent. That takes time as well, once again it can be weeks or months. This latest change should however make that process quicker. So the Cubans are coming, what can we expect the Braves to do?