From Livan Hernandez to Vladimir Nunez, the underground pipeline of Cuban baseball studs fleeing their homeland for MLB fortunes has always run through the Magic City. As a star in Cuba's national league, a player earns a few thousand bucks. In the States, the Red Sox just dropped $8.2 million on exilio shortstop Jose Iglesias. The math of defection is simple.
Tony Castro, who heads the Baseball Federation of Cuba, has recently been floating the plan to general agreement in Havana, reports Yahoo Sports.
As the Castro regime sets out an ambitious set of reforms, massive layoffs and slightly thawed market plans to try to combat an economic meltdown, the $75 million spent in the last two years by MLB teams on Cuban talent must look mighty tempting.
Alas, the idea would still run afoul of the U.S. embargo. Teams couldn't legally pay players knowing that a big part of the salary would be going back to Castro's government.
So for now, Tony Castro is trying to work out a deal with the other major leagues around the world -- in Japan, South Korea and Mexico.
Don't look for an end to the high-profile, high-risk defections -- like those engineered by Juan Ignacio Hernandez Nodar, a scout New Times profiled who spent more than a decade in Havana prisons.
Tim Elfrink is an award-winning investigative reporter, the managing editor of the Miami New Times and the co-author of "Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era." Since 2008, he's written in-depth pieces on police corruption, fatal shootings and social justice issues across South Florida. He's won the George Polk Award and has been a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.