Jose Contreras defected from Cuba in 2002 while playing a game in Mexico. When he did that, and especially after signing a $32 million contract with the New York Yankees, he became persona non grata in Cuba. He, like all other defectors, were barred from returning home and labeled traitors.
But a change in Cuban law that went into effect last month allow defectors to return to Cuba to visit and eases restrictions on the comings and goings of residents. Contreras was the first big name athlete to take advantage of that law and recently returned home for the first time in a decade.
CNN has the story, with some emotional words from Contreras himself.
While the money and fame obviously make the decision of athletes who defect an understandable one, it’s hard to imagine how they live for years, even decades, without meaningful contact with their family. Here’s hoping we’ve seen the end of those days.
Infielder Brett Lawrie successfully avoided arbitration and signed a one-year contract with the White Sox on Friday, per a team announcement. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman added that the deal was for $3.5 million, significantly lower than the $4.125 million Lawrie was paid by the White Sox in 2016.
The White Sox acquired Lawrie last December in a swap for minor league arms Zack Erwin and J.B. Wendelken. After splitting time at second and third base for the Athletics in 2015, Lawrie slotted in at second base and DH for the White Sox and batted .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs in 384 PA. While it’s strange to see a healthy, fairly productive player receive a salary reduction in arbitration, Lawrie missed nearly half of the season with a strain in his left hamstring, though he’s projected to return at full health by the start of the 2017 season.
Left-hander Brian Duensing signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Cubs on Friday, per a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman.
The free agent spent the bulk of his 2016 season with the Orioles after receiving a call-up from Triple-A Norfolk in early June. He underwent elbow surgery several weeks later when a freak bullpen injury revealed cartilage chips and inflammation in his pitching elbow, but recovered to finish the season with a 4.05 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings for the club. The Orioles utilized him for a final out during the AL Wild Card game, during which Duensing recorded a five-pitch strikeout in the ninth inning of their 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays.
The 33-year-old is currently expected to bulk up the Cubs’ left-handed relief corps, with fellow left-hander Mike Montgomery slated for the rotation in 2017.