Republicans taking aim at new MLB-Cuba posting agreement

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A little over a week ago Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) announced an agreement on a posting system that would allow players to join the league without having to defect. The deal allows Cuban ballplayers of a certain age and experience level to play in the United States and return to their home country freely, just as players from other countries can. In exchange, a portion of their bonuses will go to the FCB, just as posting fees for players from Asia go to their Asian teams.

It is hoped that the system will curtail the often dangerous process by which players obtain residency in countries like Mexico, where human traffickers and other unsavory types can threaten them and take advantage of them. Less nobly, the age restrictions will keep Cuban players in their teens and early 20s out of the United States, thereby eliminating a class of expensive free agents.

There are always tradeoffs, of course, and while the posting system may curtail player earnings and prevent some Cuban players from obtaining large free agent deals, it seems like it’ll also remedy a dangerous and unlawful system. A system which, at present, is the subject of a federal grand jury looking into all manner of illegalities and abuses.

The system, though, is now coming under fire from Senator Marco Rubio, how vows to put a stop to it before it begins:

The article Senator Rubio links lays out the specifics of it all. It argues — as Rubio argues — that President Trump should reverse the Obama-era Treasury Department’s ruling allowing Major League Baseball to negotiate the deal as an exception to the continued existence of the Cuban Embargo.

What about the plight of players who, without the agreement, will continue to try to flee Cuba in dangerous ways? Rubio doesn’t say, but the article thinks that it is not the fleeing of Cuba, but the landing in third-party counties in order to establish free agency, that is the problem. It argues that Major League Baseball should just grant free agency to any Cuban who flees the island and “makes it to freedom.” Of course it (a) does not mention that it is U.S. policy to return Cuban refugees to Cuba if they do not make it to dry land, where they’ll face jail or worse; and (b) is living in fantasyland if it thinks MLB owners will expand free agency in any way whatsoever. Which is to say that it seems to be fine with the pre-agreement status quo.

It’s not hard to imagine Trump picking up on this as an easy means of sticking it Cuba, which has long been a pretty safe political move, especially for Republicans. If he does, then the fun begins: billionaire MLB owners who overwhelmingly support Republicans will be put in opposition to them on this issue and will no doubt do whatever they can to save their deal with Cuba.

Anyone have any popcorn?

Shohei Ohtani agrees to $30 million deal for 2023 with Angels

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.

The Angels announced the deal, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.

Ohtani’s deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The contract is the largest ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.

Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS as the Halos’ designated hitter. He is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts as their ace on the mound, and opponents are batting only .207 against him.

The 28-year-old Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.

Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.

Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.