Cuban star Jose Abreu

What improved US-Cuba relations could mean for MLB

With the revelation that the United States and Cuba are moving forward to improve their relationship and lift many of the barriers between the two countries, baseball fans are eager to see what the improved relationship means for Major League Baseball. The recent influx of Cuban talent has even inflated the values of players from Cuba, with even a six-year, $68 million contract for Jose Abreu looking like a steal for the Chicago White Sox. And Abreu was an “unproven talent,” so to speak.

But there’s one piece of the agreement in place that could mean a lot to Major League Baseball. That part is the easing of business restrictions, which will make it easier for American business to travel to Cuba to conduct their practices. That part has to have MLB teams salivating at Cuba being open for scouting and development, and even with the Dominican Republic having become the model nation for international scouting and development, Cuba has always been considered the Caribbean’s best baseball-playing country.

If the easing of restrictions does extend to MLB teams, Cuba will most likely slot in alongside its international brethren in regards to all practices. In regards to the proposed international draft that MLB continues to try and make happen, Cuban players would be subject to the draft process. With the current rules in place for the international free agent signings, there’s a good chance that MLB will keep their rules in place, where a player that is at least 23 years old and has played five seasons in a Cuban league would be free to sign with whomever they want to. Any amateur players, beginning at age 16 and who have not played in a league recognized by MLB or been tendered a MLB contract, would be subject to the current pool system.

The ease of MLB teams being able to conduct business with Cuban players subsequently makes it even easier for the players themselves. Since the embargo was put in place, Cuban players had to flee their home country and become residents in other countries in order to be available to become a Major League player. This will most likely allow Cuban players to stay home and be treated as part of the process.

The biggest issue that will come into play is how MLB will deal with the teams of the Cuban leagues. One thing that could come into play would be a posting system of sorts, but considering posting systems have come under fire in recent years, MLB teams would be really angry at yet another country going to a posting system considering they aren’t the biggest fans of the Japanese and Korean systems.

Those systems are put into play by the leagues themselves, which could take the issue out of MLB’s hands altogether. However, MLB would most likely reach out to the Cuban leagues before a posting system is put in place to talk about compensation. The Cuban leagues are the biggest thing MLB would have to work out for their business practices, since the amateur signings would be much similar to what has traditionally occurred in Latin and South America.

Needless to say, this will have some major implications going forward on what Major League Baseball will deal with in regards to Cuban players. We’re just beginning to figure out how this will all work out, but it’s exciting to know that the U.S. will finally have the direct line to negotiate with Cuban players that they have been waiting decades for.

About Tim Livingston

Tim has worked for over a decade in media, including two years as the communications coordinator and broadcaster for the Dunedin Blue Jays. He is currently the Director of Broadcasting for the Sonoma Stompers and is pursuing a Master's degree in data analytics. When he's not doing that, you can find him behind the microphone on various podcasts, fighting game tournaments and even pro wrestling shows.