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Republicans taking aim at new MLB-Cuba posting agreement

Senate Intel Committee Holds Closed Briefing On Intelligence Matters

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 04: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks to reporters following a closed briefing on intelligence matters on Capitol Hill on December 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

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A little over a week ago Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) announced an agreement on a posting system that would allow players to join the league without having to defect. The deal allows Cuban ballplayers of a certain age and experience level to play in the United States and return to their home country freely, just as players from other countries can. In exchange, a portion of their bonuses will go to the FCB, just as posting fees for players from Asia go to their Asian teams.

It is hoped that the system will curtail the often dangerous process by which players obtain residency in countries like Mexico, where human traffickers and other unsavory types can threaten them and take advantage of them. Less nobly, the age restrictions will keep Cuban players in their teens and early 20s out of the United States, thereby eliminating a class of expensive free agents.

There are always tradeoffs, of course, and while the posting system may curtail player earnings and prevent some Cuban players from obtaining large free agent deals, it seems like it’ll also remedy a dangerous and unlawful system. A system which, at present, is the subject of a federal grand jury looking into all manner of illegalities and abuses.

The system, though, is now coming under fire from Senator Marco Rubio, how vows to put a stop to it before it begins:

The article Senator Rubio links lays out the specifics of it all. It argues -- as Rubio argues -- that President Trump should reverse the Obama-era Treasury Department’s ruling allowing Major League Baseball to negotiate the deal as an exception to the continued existence of the Cuban Embargo.

What about the plight of players who, without the agreement, will continue to try to flee Cuba in dangerous ways? Rubio doesn’t say, but the article thinks that it is not the fleeing of Cuba, but the landing in third-party counties in order to establish free agency, that is the problem. It argues that Major League Baseball should just grant free agency to any Cuban who flees the island and “makes it to freedom.” Of course it (a) does not mention that it is U.S. policy to return Cuban refugees to Cuba if they do not make it to dry land, where they’ll face jail or worse; and (b) is living in fantasyland if it thinks MLB owners will expand free agency in any way whatsoever. Which is to say that it seems to be fine with the pre-agreement status quo.

It’s not hard to imagine Trump picking up on this as an easy means of sticking it Cuba, which has long been a pretty safe political move, especially for Republicans. If he does, then the fun begins: billionaire MLB owners who overwhelmingly support Republicans will be put in opposition to them on this issue and will no doubt do whatever they can to save their deal with Cuba.

Anyone have any popcorn?

Follow @craigcalcaterra