Agent Bart Hernandez arrested on human trafficking charges

Associated Press

In the past several years we have heard a number of harrowing stories about how Cuban baseball players have made their way from their home country to jobs in Major League Baseball. Due to the nature of Cuba’s restrictions on emigration, the United States’ immigration laws and Major League Baseball’s free agency rules, the easiest most lucrative path between Cuba and the big leagues is through a third country. This complex process typically involves a third party: human smugglers or other shady figures who are in it to take a cut of the ballplayer’s future earnings. The story of Yasiel Puig’s journey is instructive in this regard.

Today, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that major league agent Bart Hernandez was arrested on charges arising out such a scheme involving the smuggling of Seattle Mariners outfielder Leonys Martin into the United States from Cuba in 2010. It is alleged that Martinez and his associates held Martin hostage while his multi-million contract with the Texas Rangers was negotiated. Which, of course, led to a cut being taken by Hernandez and others. Hernandez faces anywhere from three to 20 years in prison.

This is obviously significant with respect to Hernandez, Martin and everyone involved in this specific case. But it also speaks to how hopelessly corrupt the current system in place with respect to Cuban baseball players is. It’s a system which forces them into dangerous situations and requires them to pay usurious fees to criminals in order to get to the United States to play baseball. It’s a system that would not and could not exist without the incentives and disincentives in place by virtue of the United States’ laws regarding immigration from Cuba and Major League Baseball’s rules regarding free agency and draft eligibility.

Simply put: there are TREMENDOUS disincentives in place for someone trying to leave Cuba to play baseball here to take the safest path possible and huge incentives for them to put themselves in the hands of bad people in order to make their journey. Here’s hoping the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba changes the incentive structure and that Major League Baseball likewise can do things which similarly steer young men away from the hands of criminals.


RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

tampa bay rays
Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.