Trump administration ends MLB/Cuba baseball deal

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Yasiel Puig greets his teammates before an opening day baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates Thursday

The agreement originally was brokered to allow Cubans to play in the United States without defecting and giving up their citizenship.

The landmark deal was struck during the Barack Obama presidency with an attempt to soften relations between the USA and Cuba, according to ESPN.

The Trump administration on Monday scrapped a historic agreement between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation that would have allowed Cuban players to sign with US teams without needing to defect.

Paying the Cuban Baseball Federation for their baseball stars was the result of Obama administration negotiations between the MLB and Cuba, but the dealings didn't begin until after President Donald Trump took office.

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Under the agreement, players were allowed to receive 100 percent of a signing bonus, while the Major League Baseball clubs would pay an additional 25 percent of that to the federation as a release fee.

According to the Post, a Trump administration official said that the payments were equal to "human trafficking" by the Cuban government.

"One way or another, it's human trafficking", the USA official told NBC.

"The MLB deal with Cuba solved a frightful human trafficking problem", James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, said in a statement.

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Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said MLB's payments to Cuba was more like a "ransom", and that the island nation wants "legalized trafficking of persons". The players would receive 100 percent of their signing bonus, but the recruiting team would pay a fee to the Cuban baseball Federation.

Cuban-born Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, speaking through a translator before Monday night's game with the Houston Astros, said, "I just feel bad for those young ballplayers who are probably not going to have the same chance to play here. But the way we got here, it was tough - to say the least", Chapman said. In negotiating an agreement involving a Cuban governmental entity, Major League Baseball had been relying upon an interpretation of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations - issued by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control late in Barack Obama's presidency - that it was permitted to make such payments despite the broad Cuban embargo. Others abandoned the Cuban national team while playing overseas.

The deal was seen as an effort to eliminate the unsafe trafficking that had gone on for decades, which the Major League Baseball referenced in its letter to the Treasury and State departments, with Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu and Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes among those whose harrowing journeys were cited. One year earlier, he attempted to defect Cuba, but that plot was foiled, and he was eventually kept off the Cuban team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, according to ESPN.

'To know future Cuban players will not have to go through what we went through makes me so happy, ' he said in the statement. It's definitely hard for a lot of Cuban players who are not playing at this level here in the States. Trump has especially stepped up pressure on Cuba recently over its support for Venezuela's socialist president, Nicolas Maduro. It really doesn't affect us here.

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