We used to say “defects” from Cuba in these sorts of stories. I’m not sure if that terminology is still accurate given the changes in the political landscape and the new approach to players playing overseas on the part of the Cuban government. But suffice it to say, a player from Cuba has left Cuba and is planning on playing here.
The player: Luis Robert, who Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports has left his native country. Robert is 19 and is currently a center fielder with a lot of speed and raw power. Badler says he could end up a corner guy. Either way, he’s one of the top five players in Cuba by Badler’s estimate. He’ll certainly draw a lot of interest once Major League Baseball formally declares him a free agent.
The interest could vary, however, depending on the date on which Robert is cleared by MLB. The new collective bargaining agreement’s hard bonus cap on international free agents goes into effect on June 15. If he is cleared before then, anyone can sign him, including teams which have already hit the cap to which they’ll be subject for the 2016-17 signing period. If he’s cleared after then, teams which have hit the cap — the Astros, Athletics, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres and Reds — will not be able to sign him.
Call me cynical, but I would bet the mortgage on MLB clearing him after June 15.