March 18, 2016

Cubano béisbol players coming direct to America?

Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman
So, with a Treasury Department announcement from Wednesday, are we finally past the point of the likes of Aroldis Chapman and Yasiel Puig not having to engage in dangerous escapes from Cuba in order to play béisbol in America?

Well, we could be closer to that, but there's going to be a number of factors involved before we're THAT close to that.

So, let's start by taking a look at what the Treasury Department, which oversees sanctions against Cuba, had to say on Wednesday.

Here's the key points from that:
Cuban nationals in the United States in a non-immigrant status or pursuant to other non-immigrant travel authorization will be authorized to earn a salary or compensation, consistent with the terms of the particular visa, provided that the recipient is not subject to any special tax assessments in Cuba.  U.S. companies will be authorized to engage in transactions related to the sponsorship or hiring of Cuban nationals to work or perform in the United States similar to nationals from other countries, provided that no additional payments are made to the Cuban government in connection with such sponsorship or hiring.
Note the items in bold.

Commenter Historophiliac, at a group baseball blog where I also contribute, notes that Cuba signed a deal in 2014 with the KBO to let Cubans play in Korea in exchange for getting a cut of Cuban salaries. But, that's clearly cash, and wouldn't cut the mustard unless put into a shell company.

MLB, in requesting early in March that the Treasury Department make such changes, envisioned a nonprofit shell company as a workaround, though:
Under the proposed plan, according to M.L.B.’s top lawyer, Dan Halem, an entity made up of Cuban entrepreneurs and officials from baseball and its players’ union would be created. A percentage of salaries paid to Cuban players would go to the new body, which would function like a nonprofit organization and support youth baseball, education and the improvement of sports facilities in Cuba. 
The proposed body could satisfy the terms of the embargo, M.L.B. contends, because no money would go directly to the Cuban government.
Well, let's look at how this might play out, then. 

First, this won't affect the current season, whatever happens or will happen. We're too far into spring training for Cuban players to crack MLB or even AAA squads this year.

Second, per what I highlighted on the Treasury Dept. release, what does "payments" mean? Is it cash only, or is it any capitalist-based financial considerations?

Because, to channel my inner classicist a bit, MLB will have to steer between the Scylla of the letter of the Treasury Department and the Charybdis of what Cuba wants.

If "payments" is cash only, let's say one of Raul Castro's minions pitches something like the following to one of Commissioner Corleone's minions.

We like that you had a single spring training game here in 2016. We'd really like teams to agree to play a couple dozen.

And, you'll surely want to build an MLB-level spring training complex here, probably in Havana. Maybe a second in Santiago or something. (And feel free to add enough grandstands to that field, or those fields, to seat the typical Serie National crowd.)

¿Oh, and you know, Señor Commissioner? I'm sure enough Yanqui fans will want to see béisbol here that they might want to do so in the comfort of a new, American-class hotel.

We can name the whole complex after one of the best Yanqui writers, one who emblemed the manhood of béisbol and is beloved in both countries, Señor Ernesto Hemingway.

No cash trades hands. The whole complex is owned by a shell nonprofit which just happens to let Raul and/or Fidel appoint the majority of the board of directors.

Cubans get thousands of construction jobs for building all of this.

Now, how realistic would it be? That would not be cash payments; it would be in line with what I envision. And, from the MLBPA's union point of view, rather than being a cut of salaries, it would come on top of that. Plus, besides youth baseball, it would create jobs and promote tourism in Cuba, the latter bringing further Yanqui dollars to the island.

How realistic is that?

Well, we have this thing in the U.S. called a "presidential election."

Bernie Sanders isn't getting the Democratic nomination, and Jill Stein or whomever the Greens nominate isn't winning the election, so it's going to be Hillary Clinton vs. some Republican, either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in all likelihood.

Clinton would surely be OK with a fairly loose reading of the Treasury statement, on the spirit rather than the letter. A GOP president would be a different kettle of fish.

So, hold on Cards fans before you start looking for the next Aledmys Diaz.

No comments: