Chapman had a failed defection attempt in 2008, and was forced to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro, who suspended him fro the remainder of the National Series season. But he successfully defected in July of this year while the Cuba national team was participating in the World Port Tournament in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He has established residency in Andorra and is expected to garner a large major league contract in the next few months. The 21-year-old left-hander reportedly throws 100 miles per hour.
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Ramirez left Cuba in 2007 and signed a four-year, $4.75 million deal with the White Sox. In 2008, "The Cuban Missile" finished second in American League Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .290 with 21 home runs and 77 RBIs in 136 games. He made the final out of Mark Buehrle's perfect game last July.
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Livan defected to the United States at the age of 20 in 1995. He has enjoyed a fine 14-year career as a member of the Marlins, Giants, Expos, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Twins, Rockies and Mets. A workhorse on the mound, Hernandez led the league in innings pitched for three straight years from 2003-05. The two-time All-Star won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997, earning NLCS and World Series MVP honors along the way.
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Ordonez ditched the Cuban national team while they were in Buffalo, N.Y., for a game. He signed with the Mets and played seven years with the franchise before playing a season each with the Devil Rays and Cubs. Ordonez never did much at the plate, but he churned out plenty of highlight material with his glove, winning three Gold Gloves in a row from 1997-99.
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"El Duque," the half-brother of Livan Hernandez, defected from Cuba on the day after Christmas in 1997. After accepting an offer of asylum in Costa Rica, Hernandez signed a four-year, $6.6 million deal with the Yankees. Over nine major league seasons with the Yankees, White Sox, Diamondbacks and Mets, El Duque compiled a 90-65 record and 4.13 ERA. But it was the playoffs where he really shined, as evidenced by his 9-3 record and 2.55 ERA in 19 postseason games. Hernandez has four World Series rings (three with the Yankees, one with the White Sox).
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Contreras enjoyed a fabulous career in the Cuban National Series, earning the distinction of Cuban Athlete of the Year on three separate occasions. In 1999, the Cuban national team played the Baltimore Orioles and Contreras pitched eight shutout innings, striking out 10 and catching the eyes of Major League scouts. Contreras left Cuba in 2002, and the Yankees signed him to a four-year, $32 million contract. Although he never lived up to expectations in New York, Contreras enjoyed many good years with the White Sox. His best season came in 2005, when he went 15-7 with a 3.61 ERA and helped the White Sox win the World Series.
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Morales was suspended after several of his attempts to leave Cuba were foiled. But Morales finally got off the island on his eighth attempt, according to his stepfather, Henry Nunez. Morales bounced between the majors and minors from 2006-08, but he enjoyed a breakout season in 2009. After the Angels lost Mark Teixeira to free agency, Morales took over at first base and hit .306 with 34 home runs, 43 doubles and 108 RBIs.
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Escobar rode a small fishing boat, with sharks and six-foot waves snapping at its sides from Cuba to Miami in October of 2004. The Braves took Escobar in the second round of the 2005 draft, 75th overall. Through three major league seasons, Escobar boasts a .301 average with 164 RBIs. He is also recognized as being one of the better defensive shortstops in the National League.
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Betancourt was smuggled out of Cuba aboard a speedboat, but the story gets hazy after that. According to court documents, Betancourt spent time in a Mexican jail for a fraudulent passport, but eventually he made his way to the U.S. and signed a $3.65 million contact with the Mariners. After spending his first 4 1/2 seasons with the Mariners, the shortstop was traded to the Royals last July.
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Baez defected from the Cuban national team at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada and signed with the Indians. In eight major league seasons, Baez has compiled a 34-49 record and a 4.02 ERA. He saved 96 games from 2003-05 with the Indians and Devil Rays, making the All-Star Game in 2005.
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Arocha was a trailblazer as the first player to defect from the Cuban team in three decades. Arocha left his teammates at the Miami airport in 1991. Arocha was signed by the Cardinals. He played parts of four seasons for St. Louis and San Francisco, but his best one was his first in 1993, as Arocha went 11-8 with a 3.78 ERA.
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On a United States tour with the Cuban national team prior to the 1996 Olympics, Arrojo defected in the wee hours in Albany, Ga. The right-handed pitcher signed with the Devil Rays and was an All-Star in his first season (1998), going 14-12 with a 3.56 ERA. He went on to pitch four more seasons for the Devil Rays, Rockies and Red Sox, finishing with a career ERA of 4.55.
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Sanchez left Cuba on a raft in August of 1994. The outfielder was drafted by Tampa Bay in 1996. In five major league seasons with the Brewers, Tigers, Devil Rays and Giants, Sanchez hit a respectable .296, but only hit six total home runs. Sanchez is probably best known as the first Major League Baseball player to be suspended for violating the league's drug policy in April of 2005.
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On a trip with the Cuban national team in 1995, Fernandez slipped out of his motel in Millington, Tenn., and hopped in a van to Miami. Fernandez signed a three-year, $3.2 million deal with the Giants, but he never lived up to expectations. In four seasons with the Giants and Reds, he went 19-26 with a 4.93 ERA.
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The right-hander defected in Venezuela in 1995 and signed a $1.8 million contract with Arizona. Nunez played nine major league seasons with the Diamondbacks, Marlins, Rockies and Braves.
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Soler defected in 2003, then received political asylum in the Dominican Republic. The right-handed pitcher signed a three-year, $2.8 million deal with the Mets in 2004. Soler started eight games for the Mets in 2006, going 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA, but New York ended up releasing him.
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