A revision to embargo rules is poised to radically alter the signing of Cuban players

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Yesterday the Obama administration announced an alteration to rules related to the Cuban embargo which will, eventually, allow Cuban players to receive salaries directly from Major League Baseball teams without requiring them to defect.

Until this change, which goes into effect immediately, U.S. businesses could not enter into any deals in which American money would go to Cuba, as the point of the embargo was to choke off any economic support for the Castro regime. Practically speaking, this required defection of Cuban baseball players which, in turn, often forced them into dangerous situations and arrangements with human traffickers. Even if their passage out of Cuba wasn’t technically human trafficking, it often led to people taking exorbitant cuts of their contracts due to the power they had over the player as he tried to make his way to the United States. Now, theoretically, a player can simply enter into a deal with a U.S. team from his home in Cuba.

It’s not that simple, of course. Cuba still has a strong interest in not losing its best players and will likely (a) prevent many players, particularly more promising young ones, from signing such deals; and (b) impose restrictions on those who are allowed to sign in which the government takes a huge cut of their money and requires them to meet certain Cuban National Team obligations and the like. For an example, one can look at the rules to which Cuban players who have been allowed to play in Japan and Korea are subject.

But this does take the side of restrictions emanating from the U.S. out of the equation.