Must-click link: Jose Abreu and the journey out of Cuba

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White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu is the heavy favorite to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award on Monday, marking the culmination of a mysterious journey out of Cuba last year.

Jared Hopkins of the Chicago Tribune has written an excellent piece on the dangerous and corrupt system that Abreu and others have faced in order to come to the United States to play baseball. Details on Abreu’s defection are murky and he has never acknowledged that he paid to be smuggled out of Cuba, but the process is commonplace.

Cuban exile Rider Reyes, who recently finished a six-month prison sentence on charges related to smuggling, said he helped people involved with moving players into Mexico. He said the smugglers treat players like prisoners, despite their voluntarily leaving, and do not release them until they are paid.

“Those people are all about the money; they don’t care about the players,” Reyes said.

Nieto, a White Sox catcher, said paying the smugglers appears simply to have become another step in the process of Cubans reaching the majors.

“It has become a business, pretty much, with guys that do this and do that,” he said. “You have to give them a percentage when you sign. It’s a risk, and for a lot of guys, it has paid off for them.”

Alfredo Arias, a trainer and player agent who co-owns the Arias and Goodman academy in the Dominican Republic, told the Tribune that Abreu was “dragged out of there in a boat” and “risked his life” in order to establish residency in Haiti and eventually come to the United States. He signed a six-year, $68 million contract with the White Sox last October, which stood as the record contract for a player from Cuba until Rusney Castillo’s seven-year, $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox this August. Yasmany Tomas, a 23-year-old outfielder, defected from Cuba earlier this year and could top Castillo’s contract this offseason.

Yasiel Puig’s harrowing defection story has gained the most attention via a detailed piece from Jesse Katz of L.A. Magazine earlier this year. That drama is still playing out in a $12 million federal court case.

Cards’ Yadier Molina says he tested positive for COVID-19

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St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina says he’s one of the players on the team who tested positive for COVID-19.

The nine-time All-Star revealed his results Tuesday in a Spanish-language Instagram post. Soon afterward, the Cardinals issued a release naming six of the players who have tested positive.

The others are infielders Paul DeJong, Edmundo Sosa and Rangel Ravelo along with pitchers Junior Fernandez and Kodi Whitley.

“I am saddened to have tested positive for COVID-19, even after adhering to safety guidelines that were put in place,” Molina said in a release issued by the team. “I will do everything within my power to return as soon as possible for Cardinals fans, the city of St. Louis and my teammates.”

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said Monday that seven players and six staff members had tested positive. At the time, Mozeliak said the people to test positive hadn’t been identified publicly because they had declined to have their names released.

The Cardinals said Tuesday that six players had decided to grant permission to have their names revealed.

“I will approach my healing as I do all other things in my life – with education, commitment, and persistence. I look forward to re-joining the team soon and ask that you respect my privacy at this time,” DeJong said in a statement released by the team.

The outbreak resulted in the postponement of the Cardinals’ scheduled three-game weekend series at Milwaukee as well as a four-game series with Detroit that was supposed to run Monday through Thursday. The Cardinals have played just five games this season and are hoping to return to action Friday hosting the Chicago Cubs.

As of now, the Cardinals who have tested positive have returned home while the rest of the team remains isolated in Milwaukee hotel rooms. Their last game was July 29 at Minnesota.

Mozeliak said Monday that five of the 13 overall members of the Cardinals’ traveling party to test positive were asymptomatic. The other eight had minor symptoms including headaches, coughs, sniffles and low-grade fevers. Mozeliak said none of the eight had required hospitalization.

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