TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio took to Twitter to argue Thursday against a Major League Baseball agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation that is intended to make it safer for Cuban players to reach the big leagues.
Rubio, expressing hope that President Donald Trump or the U.S. Department of State will intervene, called the agreement “both illegal and immoral,” while questioning a “terrible one-sided” provision that allows the Cuban Baseball Federation to collect fees from teams that want to sign Cuban players.
“Legality of recent agreement between MLB & Cuban Baseball Federation rests on (President) Obama era ruling that federation not controlled by Cuban govt.,” Rubio, a Miami-Dade County Republican, tweeted. “This is not just factually incorrect it is a farce & I am working to get it overruled as soon as possible.”
The proposed three-year agreement, announced Dec. 19 by Major League Baseball as a way to “end the dangerous trafficking of Cuban players,” allows players from Cuba to sign with North American teams under rules similar to arraignments now in place with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
“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,” Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a news release announcing the deal.
In seeking to sign players who are 24 or younger and under contract with the Cuban Baseball Federation, major-league teams would have to pay the federation fees equal to 25 percent of any signing bonuses. The federation would be able to approve or reject the requests.
For Cuban players 25 and older and who have six or more years of professional experience, Major League Baseball wouldn’t need the consent of the federation. However, fees of 15 percent to 20 percent of the players’ contracts would need to be paid to the federation.
Because of U.S. embargo rules, Cuban players are barred from negotiating as free agents while still in Cuba, and those who defect directly to America must enter the annual amateur draft.
While the deal was marketed as allowing players and their families to travel safely and lawfully between the U.S. and Cuba, Rubio sees the proposal as essentially paying the Communist government and potentially limiting the incomes of Cuban players, who now often reach the U.S. through more hazardous routes that involve smugglers and landing in countries such as Mexico or the Dominican Republic.
“Under this agreement: --- the Cuban Govt controlled Baseball Federation will get 20% of total value of each MLB contract signed by a Cuban player,” Rubio wrote. “The regime will impose a new income tax on the players earnings, even though the income is being earned by playing in the U.S.”
Rubio backed his argument with a link to a National Review article that more directly calls for Trump to “Veto MLB’s foul deal” and is subtitled “Don’t steal from players’ salaries to fund a Communist regime.”
In 2014, the Florida Legislature approved a controversial new stadium-funding process --- which has gone unused --- that includes a provision that effectively shut out Major League Baseball from the money until draft requirements were revamped for players defecting from Cuba.