Cuba announces first list of baseball players who can sign with U.S. teams

By Nelson Acosta & Sarah Marsh | Reuters

Apr 2, 2019

Cuba’s Baseball Federation announced on Tuesday a first list of players authorized to sign contracts directly with Major League Baseball organizations, moving Cuban-U.S. cooperation in the sport forward despite tense broader bilateral relations.

The list announced of 34 players between 17 and 25 years old who classify as international amateurs under MLB rules did not include any major stars. Some, however, have already played professionally abroad like Raidel Martinez who has played in Japan.

The move comes after the federations reached a historic agreement last December allowing Cuban players to sign with U.S. teams without needing to defect, seeking to end the practice of their being smuggled off the island on speedboats.

“A first step forward for baseball and against the trafficking of human beings,” the Cuban Baseball Federation said on Twitter, upon announcing the list.

MLB teams will pay their Cuban counterpart a release fee for each player to be signed, providing a huge windfall for Cuban baseball, which has suffered from dwindling budgets and the defection of its best players.

Under the deal, Cuban players 25 years old or under or who have not yet done six years of service in the Cuban leagues must have their federation’s permission to sign up with MLB organizations.

Older, more experienced players are free to sign with MLB teams. The Cuban Federation said it would send the MLB a list of its over-25 “free agents” in July.

Some of the biggest stars in MLB are Cubans who have defected like Yasiel Puig of the Cincinnati Reds, Yoenis Cespedes of the New York Mets and Jose Dariel Abreu of the Chicago White Sox - all of whom have signed multiyear, multimillion-dollar contracts.

The mininum salary for players in Cuba is $50 per month, so the payoff was huge for the stars, although they often had to undertake dangerous journeys to get to the United States.

More than 350 Cuban ballplayers have defected since the start of 2014.

Here is the list announced today.

Sin más, aquí el listado anunciado esta tarde.

Alfredo Fadraga Pérez C 19 Ciego de Ávila
Ariel Martínez Marrero C 22 Matanzas
Daniel Pérez Pérez INF 22 Cienfuegos
César Prieto Hechevarría INF 19 Cienfuegos
Andrés Hernández Díaz INF 22 La Habana
Norel González Beltrán INF 24 Villa Clara
Oscar Luis Colás León INF 19 Santiago de Cuba
Guillermo García García INF 18 Granma
Narde Yadán Cruz Calderín INF 18 La Habana
Loidel Chapellí Zulueta INF 17 Camagüey
Ricardo Ramos La O INF 22 Santiago de Cuba
Félix Javier Rodríguez García OF 20 Cienfuegos
Geyser Cepeda Lima OF 21 Sancti Spíritus
Yoelkis Céspedes Maceo OF 20 Granma
Sergio Bartelemí Correoso OF 23 Santiago de Cuba
Yoelquis Guibert Stevens OF 23 Santiago de Cuba
Maykel Yordan García Molina OF 17 Las Tunas
Carlos Emilio Pelegrín Martínez OF 18 Pinar del Río
Leonel Moas Acebedo OF 22 Camagüey
Liván Moinelo Pita LHP 22 Pinar del Río
Raidel Martínez Pérez RHP 21 Pinar del Río
Andy Amaury Rodríguez Valdez RHP 19 La Habana
Yandi Molina Barrios RHP 19 La Habana
Alyanser Álvarez del Sol RHP 18 Mayabeque
Diosbel Nápoles Rengifo RHP 21 Mayabeque
Pabel Hernández Bruces RHP 20 La Habana
Pablo Luis Guillén Díaz RHP 20 Villa Clara
Daniel Conde González RHP 23 Villa Clara
Yosimar Cousín La Rosa RHP 20 Camagüey
Rafael Sánchez Thorpe RHP 19 Holguín
Carlos Font Mustelier LHP 22 Santiago de Cuba
Norge Carlos Vera Aldana RHP 18 Santiago de Cuba
Raidmon Figueredo Cruz RHP 18 La Habana
Yeudis Reyes Gamboa RHP 23 Guantánamo
Source: Cuban Baseball Federation (CBF)