International News

Cuba Could Let Baseball Stars Play Overseas -- But Don't Expect U.S. Defections To Stop

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.

Apparently Cuba's baseball honchos (led by Fidel's son) agree. They're pushing a plan to let Cuban stars play overseas freely -- in exchange for sending a chunk of their earnings back home.

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.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink