The United States and Cuba have had, for decades, virtually no official relations whatsoever. The reasons are both political and historical, and we needn’t really get into that here beyond a helpful Wikipedia link that explains the U.S.’s current embargo against Cuba. The short version? Those Cuban cigars you love are illegal here. More importantly, the Cuban players who’ve been tearing it up have to go through sometimes unthinkable strife to get to the United States to play baseball.
That may soon be changing. Dramatically.
The AP reports this morning that the U.S. and Cuba will soon start talks to resume full diplomatic relations between the nations, including the U.S. opening an embassy in Havana. The potential implications for Major League Baseball should be obvious to you. Imagine if Cuba were suddenly as open to teams as, for example, the Dominican Republic. The explosion of additional talent in the game could be enormous.
While Cuba has recently engaged in a more open policy with respect to its athletes, there hasn’t been an indication by the U.S. Government that they would change any of their restrictions on Cuban nationals doing business with U.S. entities (see, for example, the most recent situation involving Cuban star prospect Yoan Moncada). If full diplomatic relations resume, that could change completely.
To say this is potentially the most significant baseball story in quite a while is not overstating things, though I should emphasize that this is a huge deal regardless of the baseball stuff – it’s just, well, that’s our lens here.
The days of wondering about Cuban defectors could soon be behind us, and Cuba may resemble something like a mix of the Dominican Republic (where all of the top teenagers sign with MLB organizations) and Japan (where top players serve out professional contracts before coming to the States as free agents or as part of a posting system). Because of the money involved, I’m guessing Cuba would, over time, come to more closely resemble the Dominican pipeline, however.
And all of this possibly just in time for a potentially-looming worldwide draft, likely to be fleshed out in the 2016 CBA negotiations. The full implications here are complicated, and may take a while to sort out.
An additional thought about the potential new availability of a huge base of talent, which could be good for the Cubs:
Getting WAY ahead of myself: if Cuba winds up w/some kind of posting system for players, could disproportionately benefit large mkt teams.
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) December 17, 2014