If you haven’t been paying attention to world news over the past few years you may not be aware of exactly how bad things have gotten in Venezuela. But, it’s bad. There’s food shortages. It’s almost impossible to find medicine, even for hospitals. The rate of murders has gone through the roof in the last few years. In specific regards to even just the baseball world, Baseball America over the last few seasons has not put out the signing bonuses for Venezuelan players in the hopes of avoiding making them or their families targets of kidnappings or extortion type situations.
Many big leaguers from Venezuela have not returned home in the offseason over the last few years. Some do not return out of fear for themselves and their families. As someone with money, they could very easily be targets. Some players are very willing to speak out about what is happening there. Others are very hesitant to speak publicly about it. Francisco Cervelli of the Pirates has been very outspoken about the situation. He stated that the only way he’ll return to Venezuela is when the current president of their country and government is replaced.
For Major Leaguers, who make a minimum of $535,000 (for a full season) per year, it’s easier to not go home and to remain in the United States during the offseason when you aren’t being paid. For minor league players this is far more difficult to do. As I wrote back in 2014, minor league players don’t make much money (some guys do get nice signing bonuses – but their base pay is a joke, to the point that former players are attempting to sue for back pay to at least make up their pay to the point of it being minimum wage for their hours put in). As an example, the guys who play in Dayton make $1300-$1350 a month. They are not paid during the offseason. That means they are making less than $7000 for the entire season.
For a minor leaguer to try and remain stateside, it’s quite different than a Major Leaguer. For the monetary side of things alone, it just makes it incredibly difficult.
The Cincinnati Reds, however, have stepped up to the plate. They have offered to help out any of their Venezuelan players that would like to remain stateside this winter. The organization is offering to help with housing for the players that would prefer to stay than travel back to Venezuela as long as they can get everything that goes along with their VISA’s in working order with the government that would allow them to stay if the player chooses to do so. If interested here are their current offers.
By my count, there are only 11 Venezuelan born players that are stateside right now, with the Arizona League Reds having four of them. It’s not a large number, and at this point I’m not sure if any of the players will take the organization up on the offer – but I’m a big believer in this quote from Gary Vaynerchuk:
Doing the right thing is always the right thing.
The Cincinnati Reds didn’t have to do this. But they did. They are doing the right thing here, whether the players decide to take them up on it or not. It’s been a tough season for the organization in many ways. But it’s just baseball. What’s going on in Venezuela right now is truly tough to swallow, and that’s from an outsider who has just been reading about it from the safety and comfort in Cincinnati. There’s real life happenings in Venezuela, and for the most part those happenings aren’t good. It’s unfortunate that things have gotten to the point where this was even a consideration by the organization that it needed to be offered, but it’s something that I’m happy to be able to write about that they have taken that step.