Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) jointly announced today an agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) that will provide Cuban baseball players with a safe and legal path to sign with a Major League Club.
The objective of the agreement, which is the product of years of negotiations with the FCB, is to end the dangerous trafficking of Cuban players who desire to play professional baseball in the United States, a practice that has been documented in legal proceedings and media reports, and which has caused significant hardship to Cuban players and their families. The FCB becomes the fourth foreign professional baseball league to enter into an agreement of this nature with MLB, joining Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), and the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL).
"To know future Cuban players will not have to go through what we went through makes me so happy," Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig said. "I want to thank everyone who was involved in making this happen and thank them personally for allowing an opportunity for Cuban baseball players to have the ability to come and show how talented they are. Thank you."
Under this agreement, the FCB must release all players under contract to the FCB who are at least twenty-five (25) years old and have six (6) or more years of playing experience (known as "Foreign Professionals" under MLB rules) to sign with MLB Clubs. The FCB may also release younger players to sign with Major League Clubs. Once a player is released by the FCB, he is free to negotiate and sign with any Major League Club without leaving Cuba, subject to the same collectively bargained rules applicable to all international players. A Major League Club that signs a player released by the FCB pursuant to this agreement will pay the FCB a "release fee," the amount of which is calculated using the same formula contained in MLB's protocol agreements with the NPB, KBO and CPBL. When it is time for the player to report to the United States or Canada for baseball activities, he will do so pursuant to a standard work visa, which will also allow him to travel with his family and to return to Cuba during the off-season if he chooses. A more detailed summary of the key provisions of the agreement is attached.
Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. 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 and will allow the next generation of Cuban players to pursue their dream without enduring many of the hardships experienced by current and former Cuban players who have played Major League Baseball."
Tony Clark, Executive Director of the MLBPA, said: "Establishing a safe, legal process for entry to our system is the most important step we can take to ending the exploitation and endangerment of Cuban players who pursue careers in Major League Baseball. The safety and wellbeing of these young men remains our primary concern."
Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu said: "Knowing that the next generation of Cuban baseball players will not endure the unimaginable fate of past Cuban players is the realization of an impossible dream for all of us. Dealing with the exploitation of smugglers and unscrupulous agencies will finally come to an end for the Cuban baseball player.
"To this date, I am still harassed," Abreu added. "The next generation of Cuban baseball players will be able to sign an MLB contract while in Cuba, they will be able to keep their earnings as any other player in the world, they will be able to return to Cuba, they will be able to share with their families, and they will be able to play the sport they love against the best players in the world without fear and trepidation. Great day for Cuban baseball players."
White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada said: "I am extremely happy that an agreement has been reached. It is good to know that players will not have to take a risk or be in danger to try and get to the United States to play baseball. I am really happy and wish future players the best. I'll be waiting for you in the big leagues."
Summary of Key Terms of Agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB)
• Only Cuban players who have a playing contract with the FCB ("FCB Players") are covered by the Agreement. Any Cuban player who does not have a contract with the FCB is eligible to sign with any MLB Club to the same extent as any other unsigned international amateur.
• Under the Agreement, all FCB Players fall into one of two categories: (i) "FCB Professionals," who are FCB Players who meet the definition of a "Foreign Professional" under the Basic Agreement between MLB and the MLBPA (i.e., 25 or older with six or more years of professional experience); and (ii) "FCB Amateurs," who are all other FCB Players who are at least eighteen (18) years old. Each off-season, the FCB must release all FCB Professionals who wish to sign with an MLB Club. The FCB may also release FCB Amateurs to sign with an MLB Club during MLB's international amateur signing period, commencing each July 2nd.
• Once released by the FCB, all FCB Players are treated the same as other international players under the Basic Agreement, and may negotiate and sign with any MLB Club that is willing to pay the corresponding Release Fee (see below).
• The Release Fee owed to the FCB by the MLB Club that signs an FCB Player is calculated using the same formula embodied in MLB's agreements with the NPB, KBO, and CPBL (i.e., between 15% and 20% of the total guaranteed value for Major League contracts, and 25% of the signing bonus for Minor League contracts). In addition, Supplemental Release Fees may be owed if a contract with an FCB Player contains bonuses, escalators, or options that are later triggered. The Release Fee (and any Supplemental Release Fee) paid by the MLB Club is in addition to the compensation agreed to by the MLB Club to the FCB Player in the player's contract, which will be paid by the MLB Club directly to the FCB Player.
• Released FCB Players will be scouted and signed in Cuba by MLB Clubs, and will travel to the United States or Canada (as applicable) to perform services for their MLB Club pursuant to a standard work visa. A former FCB Player signed by an MLB Club may return to Cuba during the off-season, and may play in off-season tournaments or leagues in Cuba with the consent of his MLB Club.
• FCB Players may choose to be represented by a player agent or representative when negotiating a contract with an MLB Club.
• Any disputes between MLB and the FCB will be resolved through neutral arbitration before the International Chamber of Commerce.
• The Agreement will expire on October 31, 2021, unless extended by mutual agreement.
"I am so happy that Cuban players can now pursue their dream of playing baseball at the highest level without having to endure the uncertain and sometimes dangerous road taken by those before them," free-agent shortstop Jose Iglesias said.
"It's a very happy day for the great game we share," said former All-Star Luis Tiant. "I am thrilled that the next generation of Cuban ballplayers, who only want to succeed in the Major Leagues, will have a safer route to their dreams."