Background: MLB's Requirements for Cuban Players Go Beyond Law

Thursday, April 24, 2014
Excerpts from the August 2013 article, "MLB Slows Down Process For Cuban Signings," in Baseball America:

[A]t some point before the end of 2012, MLB stiffened its requirements for Cuban players, telling teams they are not allowed to sign a Cuban national until the player has been issued a specific license [as an "unblocked national"] from OFAC.

[CHC: Despite the fact that Cuban players in the U.S. would already be considered "unblocked nationals" under an existing general license, which requires no time or paperwork].

What MLB is asking for from Cuban players goes beyond the minimum government requirement and will have the effect of slowing down their signing process, with some having to wait six months to get a [specific] license [...]

The easiest way for a Cuban player to become an "unblocked national" would be to come directly to the United States, but then the player would be subject to the draft. For players like Puig, Soler or Jose Abreu, that would cost them and their handlers significant money. So they want to avoid the draft, and at the same time they want to sign as quickly as possible. Every day the player doesn’t get signed creates more expenses for his handlers.

The process also creates incentive for fraud to expedite the process. It’s not difficult to acquire false passports or other documents in countries like Haiti or Mexico, no different than the way drug traffickers or arms dealers acquire fake identities [...]

If MLB allowed Cuban players who are exempt from the international bonus pools—those age 23 or older with at least three seasons in Serie Nacional—to sign as free agents even if they established residency in the United States, that might simplify things, but there’s no indication that will happen.