Trump admin targets MLB's ability to recruit Cuban players

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The Trump administration has stopped allowing Major League Baseball to recruit players from Cuba who have not defected to the United States.

Here's what we know

In March 2016, the MLB asked the U.S. Treasury Department to let Cuban players sign with the U.S. teams while on a visa. Before this, the only way for Cuban players to play on U.S. teams was for them to defect. The Obama administration granted this, saying that it did not view the Cuban Baseball Federation as part of the Cuban government.

On Monday, the Trump administration revoked that short-lived privilege and now made it necessary for Cuban players to defect in order to play.

As part of a tougher overall approach, the Trump administration is planning to revoke that decision, forcing teams to get licenses from the U.S. government before they can recruit Cuban players. A senior administration official told the Washington Post that the release fees that the MLB had to pay to the Cuban Baseball Federation for players under the former deal was equivalent to "human trafficking."

In 2018, according to Forbes, 17 MLB players had been born in Cuba. These included New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman, and Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu. On April 3, the Cuban Baseball Federation released a list of 34 players who are eligible to sign major league contracts in the United States.

What else?

Cuba isn't the only dictatorship hostile to the U.S. that has produced good MLB players. Houston Astros star Jose Altuve tried out for the team while he was a teenager living in Venezuela. After a few years in the minor leagues, he went on to become the American League's Most Valuable Player in 2017. Players like Altuve and Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco need to return to Venezuela periodically to renew their work visas.

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