Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed to a deal with the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) allowing Cuban players to come to the U.S. without defecting, the league announced Wednesday.
"For year, Major League Baseball has been seeking to end the trafficking of baseball players from Cuba by criminal organizations by creating a safe and legal alternative for those players to sign with Major League Clubs," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in the statement. "We believe that this agreement accomplishes that objective and will allow the next generation of Cuban players to pursue their dream without enduring many of the hardships experienced by current and former Cuban players who have played Major League Baseball."
The FCB is the fourth organization to reach this kind of agreement with MLB. Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball, the Korea Baseball Organization and the Chinese Professional Baseball League also have similar deals.
Players will be allowed to come to the states on work visas, and MLB teams will pay the FCB for the rights to their release. Players who are 25 or older and have at least six years of professional experience would be automatically released. The FCB can release younger players who are at least 18 years old. Once released, a player can negotiate and sign with a MLB team without leaving Cuba.
The release fee would be between 15% and 20% of the total guaranteed value for MLB contracts for players at least 25 years old. For players under 25, their release fee would be 25% of the signing bonus for minor league contracts.
MLB and FCB's agreement expires Oct. 31, 2021, unless they mutually choose to extend it.