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'Homerun Agreement' Reached Between US, Cuba

Players can sign MLB contracts without defecting
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 20, 2018 12:20 AM CST
Children play baseball in the streets of Havana, Cuba.   (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
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(Newser) – Major League Baseball, its players' association, and the Cuban Baseball Federation have reached an agreement that will allow players from the island to sign big league contracts without defecting, an effort to eliminate the dangerous trafficking that had gone on for decades. The agreement, which runs through Oct. 31, 2021, allows Cubans to sign under rules similar to those for players under contract to clubs in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, the AP reports. For years, MLB "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," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

Depending on the quality of future players, the agreement could mean millions of dollars in future income for the cash-poor Cuban federation, which has seen the quality of players and facilities decline in recent years as talent went overseas. The agreement marks a step forward in US-Cuba relations during a time of tensions between Cuba and the Trump administration. MLB said the deal was allowed by a general license issued by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control in 2016 that was not specific to baseball. Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, called it a "homerun agreement," tweeting: "This deal will make life better for Cuban baseball players, who will no longer have to risk unsafe passage to the US."

(Read more Cuba stories.)

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