Yahoo Sports: Cuba’s plan to shop talent may not help MLB
Pedro Luis Lazo retired from baseball the day after Christmas. A horse-drawn carriage took him into the stadium in Pinar Del Rio where he and Jose Contreras(notes) once formed the most fearsome pitching duo in the history of the Cuban league, Serie Nacional. Nearly a decade ago, Contreras fled Cuba for the riches of Major League Baseball. Lazo stayed.
For the last 21 years, Lazo pitched for a pittance. Outside of the tiny island shut off from the United States, he is barely known. Whatever Lazo could’ve been in MLB – monster closer or inning-gobbling starter in all likelihood, and outsized, magnanimous personality for certain – his nationalist and loyalist sensibilities handcuffed him to Cuba.
He is a dying breed. Over the last two years, major league teams have spent more than $75 million on Cuban defectors for whom a life with new cars and sparkling jewelry and freedom was too much to ignore. Nearly half the sum went to Aroldis Chapman(notes), who in his first season with the Cincinnati Reds threw the fastest recorded pitch in history and showcased the highest-end talent available in Cuba.
Chapman’s defection, along with that of shortstops Jose Iglesias (Boston signed him for $8.2 million) and Adeiny Hechavarria (Toronto signed him for $10 million), has compelled Cuba to reconsider its policy on restricting players from plying their trade professionally elsewhere. The Baseball Federation of Cuba, headed by Fidel Castro’s son Tony, is discussing a plan that would allow baseball players to leave the country in exchange for a proportion of their salary going to Cuba, according to two sources familiar with the proposal.
Ideally, one source said, Cuba would send players to the major leagues and circumvent the spate of defections that have embarrassed the country. Such a plan, the source said, is currently a non-starter. Though MLB would welcome Cuban players, the arrangement would in effect pay the Cuban government for players, a violation of the United States’ 50-year-long embargo on Cuba. That is unlikely to thaw for baseball. While the U.S. government has allowed Cuba to play in both World Baseball Classics, Cuban players were the only ones not given the prize money handed out by the International Baseball Federation……Learn More
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