One of the big news items from yesterday, not just in baseball, was that the United States is easing up the embargo on Cuba. Baseball America’s Ben Badler has an article up looking at what some of it all means for Major League Baseball. The actual trade embargo, the thing that would be required to be removed for players to be allowed to come to America/Canada without leaving Cuba and establishing residency somewhere else, would need to be approved by Congress. That is something that is going to take some time.

What we do know about the situation though is that both Major League Baseball and individual teams have already seemingly prepared for the day in which this could happen. Did they know something or was it just hopeful thinking? Either way, it doesn’t really matter.

There are a whole lot of issues that come along with acquiring Cuban talent even if the trade embargo were to be lifted. Cuba has a professional league that they would not want to see raided. Cuba is already allowing some of their players to play professionally in Japan as long as they return to Cuba to play in their professional league when the season begins. That isn’t going to work in America as the two seasons have times when they overlap, including the playoffs.

There are several options out there that seem to be thought of as frontrunning ideas for how Major League Baseball and Cuba would handle the acquisition of talent. The first would be to have a posting system like what is done in Japan or in Korea for their professional players. While the two systems are different, the concept is the same. You pay a fee to the team to negotiate with the player. It’s also worth noting that unlike times in the past, the posting fee is now limited to $20M in Japan and I’d imagine that Major League Baseball, if this were the system to go to, would push hard for something like that in Cuba as well.

The other thought would be that it could be set up like the Mexican League currently is. The Mexican League is technically a part of minor league baseball, but it’s completely independent from the Major Leagues. The teams down there operate on their own and they can and do sell their players for teams. What differentiates them from Japan or Korea is that these guys are all typically still teenagers and the player doesn’t have much say in their contract. The Mexican team sells the player and they keep 75% of the deal while the player gets the other 25%.

So, what does all of that mean for the Cincinnati Reds? Well, it’s tough to say. They haven’t been shy in handing out decent chunks of change to Cuban players, landing two of the top pitchers to leave the island in the last five years with Aroldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias. They also seem to have been on the outside looking in on guys who were going to sign $50M+ deals and I’d be surprised if that changed no matter what happens, especially if it meant paying another $10-20M on top of that simply to negotiate with the player.

There has been an idea I’ve seen floated around that the signings of Chapman and Iglesias that the Reds would have an inside track on guys. Don’t buy it for a second. Even if the players are getting to choose where they go, they almost always follow the money. If the Reds are offering the most, they will come. If not, they really aren’t likely to be wearing a Reds uniform. What does seem to work in the Reds favor is that they have been active in scouting Cuban players, so they are familiar with many of the national team players and have done their work as far as they can (they aren’t going to Cuba to see the non-national team players right now, but no one else is either).

Despite there being quite a bit of talent coming out of Cuba over the last few seasons, there is a limited number of star level players still there. Everyone knows who Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman are. How many have heard of Miguel Gonzalez? The country has plenty of big league talent on it, but there is still a finite number of impact guys available compared to role player types who may fill out a team just fine but may stay in Cuba to play in their league.

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Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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