Rays Guillermo Heredia praises new agreement to ease path for Cuban players to majors

Plan eliminates need for players to defect and risk danger.
New Rays OF Guillermo Heredia, shown in action with Mariners in 2017, likes the new plan. [Times files]
New Rays OF Guillermo Heredia, shown in action with Mariners in 2017, likes the new plan. [Times files]
Published Dec. 19, 2018|Updated Dec. 19, 2018

A new agreement between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation to allow Cuban players to come to the United States without defecting and the danger that comes with doing so was announced today.

"For years, 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.

"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."

Cuban players currently in the majors, including new Rays OF Guillermo Heredia, lauded the agreement.

"This is great news," Heredia said, in quotes distributed by MLB and the players union. "It makes me happy to know that the next generation of Cuban players will be able to fulfill their dream of one day playing in the Major Leagues in this protected way."

Former Rays SS Adeiny Hechavarria was also pleased: "Good to hear that Cuban players will now have a direct and safe path to play baseball in the United States."

The deal includes payments to the Cuban federation based on contracts signed by the players.

"Establishing a safe, legal process for entry to our system is the most important step we can take to ending the exploitation and endangerment of Cuban players who pursue careers in Major League Baseball," union chief  Tony Clark said. "The safety and well-being of these young men remains our primary concern."

Per the Associated Press, here are some of the details:

* The agreement, which runs through Oct. 31, 2021, allows Cubans to sign under rules similar to those for players under contract to clubs in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

* Only players under contract to the Cuban federation are covered by the agreement, and the Cuban federation agreed to release all players 25 and older with at least six years of professional experience. They would be classified as international professionals under MLB's labor contract with the players' association and not subject to international amateur signing bonus pools.

* Any players allowed to sign with big league clubs can do so without leaving Cuba, and the fee paid by the signing team will be covered by the same rules as in MLB's other posting systems: 20 percent of the first $25 million of a major league contract, 17.5 percent of the next $25 million and 15 percent of any amount over $50 million. There will be a supplemental fee of 15 percent of any earned bonuses, salary escalators and exercised options.

* For minor league contracts, the fee will be 25 percent of the signing bonus, and there will be a supplemental fee for any foreign professionals who at first agree to minor league deals that include major league terms that later come into force.