WASHINGTON — The Trump administration canceled a four-month-old deal between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation on Monday, saying that the federation was part of the Cuban government and trade with it was illegal under current law.
The announcement came less than two weeks after the start of the 2019 baseball season, and just days after the federation released the names of 34 Cuban players it said were eligible to sign with Major League Baseball. Some of those players were expected to be signed and playing this year.
Mariners reliever Roenis Elias left Cuba in 2010, traveling via boat to Mexico and then to the United States to play baseball.
First negotiated by the Obama administration, the agreement was intended to prevent Cuban players from undertaking risky escapes from Cuba, and from having to give up their citizenship to play in the United States.
Under the agreement, players were allowed to receive 100 percent of a signing bonus, while the MLB clubs would pay an additional 25 percent of that to the federation as a release fee. The players would also have to pay Cuban income tax on foreign earnings.
A senior Trump administration official said that the payments amounted to “human trafficking” by the Cuban government.