Frederich Cepeda becomes the first non-defecting Cuban to play in a major league in decades


Last year we noted that Cuba lifted its rule — dating back to 1961 — which prevented its baseball stars to play baseball in other countries. Now Cubans can play in foreign leagues (at least non-U.S. foreign leagues) without having to defect. In exchange, they pay 20 percent of their salary to the government. For many — especially players who may not be Major League Baseball material — this isn’t a bad deal. After all, it’s one thing to risk your life and family for the chance at tens of millions. It’s another thing altogether to do it merely to play outside of Cuba for a couple of seasons.

Frederich Cepeda, an outfielder for the Cuban National team and  and Sancti Spíritus of the Cuban National Serieshas become the first player to take advantage of this policy. Cepeda, 34, will head to Japan to play for the Yomiuri Giants. He’ll make $1.5 million which, while just above average for any U.S. major leaguer, is life-transforming money for someone who otherwise would have little choice but to continue to play in Cuba, where even the best players make no more than $500 a month.

Royals sign Clay Buchholz to minor league deal

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Royals have signed pitcher Clay Buchholz to a minor league deal. Buchholz will earn a $1.5 million salary if he makes the club’s major league roster and can earn an additional $250,000 through incentives. Buchholz has an opt-out date set for May 1, which means if he isn’t on the Royals’ 25-man roster by then, he can request his release.

Buchholz, 33, was acquired by the Phillies from the Red Sox in December 2016, but he made only two starts before an MRI revealed he had a partial tear of his right flexor pronator mass. He underwent surgery in April and missed the rest of the season.

The Royals recently lost Jesse Hahn, who was diagnosed with a sprained right UCL. Buchholz would likely be in consideration for a rotation spot if another starter were to suffer an injury. Presently, the Royals’ rotation appears set with Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Jake Junis, and Nate Karns.