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 Series, has 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.