MLB reaches agreement allowing Cuban players to join league without defecting: What to know

On Wednesday, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association jointly announced an agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation that will provide Cuban baseball players with a safe and legal path to sign with a team in the majors. The deal, which took over two years of negotiations, will run through October 2021. It's modeled after similar agreements with leagues in Japan, Korea and Taiwan which use posting systems that allow players to transfer to MLB teams.

"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," commissioner Rob Manfred said in a 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."

Because of the United States embargo, Cuban players have had to defect and establish residency in another country before being allowed to sign with in MLB. In recent years, players like Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, Jose Iglesias, Jorge Soler, Jose Abreu and Dayan Viciedo, among others, have defected from Cuba and landed lucrative contracts.

Here are five more things to know about the deal:

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

Under the agreement, the Cuban federation must release all players under contract to the federation who are at least 25-years-old and have six or more years of playing experience to sign with Major League clubs. The federation may also release younger players to sign with teams. Once a player is released by the Cuban federation, he is free to negotiate and sign with any Major League club without leaving Cuba, subject to the same collectively bargained rules applicable to all international players.

Once released by the Cuban federation, they will be treated the same as other international players and may negotiate and sign with any MLB club that is willing to pay the corresponding release fee

The deal, similar to agreements with Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), and the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL), requires a release fee to be paid by the MLB club. The fee is calculated using the same formula embodied in MLB's agreements with the NPB, KBO, and CPBL, (between 15 percent and 20 percent of the total guaranteed value for major league contracts).

Released players will be scouted and signed in Cuba by MLB clubs, and will travel to the United States or Canada (as applicable) to perform services for their MLB club in accordance with a standard work visa

When the player is ready to report to the U.S. or Canada for baseball activities, they will do so in accordance with a standard work visa, which will also allow him to travel with his family and to return to Cuba in the offseason if he chooses. The player may also have the ability to play in offseason tournaments or leagues in Cuba with the consent of his MLB club.

A player can decide whether he wants a registered MLBPA agent to negotiate a major league contract

The players may choose to be represented by a registered MLBPA agent or a someone other than an agent when negotiating a contract with an MLB club. Any disputes between MLB and the Cuban federation will be resolved through neutral arbitration.

"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," said Tony Clark, Executive Director of the MLBPA. "The safety and wellbeing of these young men remains our primary concern."

There is still uncertainty of whether or not the government will intervene

Even after years of lobbying and negotiating, the agreement still requires approval from the U.S government and their approval is far from certain at the moment. Should the current adminitration choose not to intervene, players could begin coming to MLB immediately, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo.

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