The biggest news in baseball last week wasn’t a trade or signing, but the announcement of a new agreement between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) on an improved way to transfer talent between organizations. Most of this comes out of a mutual desire to lessen the impact of human traffickers and build a safer model for baseball players to pursue the highest levels of competition, and it also presents an opportunity for teams to tap into new veins of talent.
If you’re familiar with the Japanese posting system, you’ll catch up with the new process in Cuba pretty quickly. Players over the age of 25 with at least six years of professional experience can be posted as major leaguers, while players between the ages of 17 and 25 can be posted as amateurs, subject to international free agent spending limits. This is similar to the situation Shohei Ohtani dealt with last winter.
The posting fee comes from the contract agreed upon between player and MLB team. The FCB receives 20% of the first $25 million in guaranteed money, 17.5% of the total from $25-50 million, 15% of any amount over $50 million. The release fee is 25% of the signing bonus for minor league contracts. To give an example, if Aroldis Chapman had agreed to his five-year, $86 million deal as a posting agreement, FCB would receive $14.775 million in fees. This new agreement with Cuban baseball is good news, and should it be allowed to stand by the U.S. government (which is far from a foregone conclusion), the Yankees should be all over it.
One of the keys to the team’s success over the past two decades has been its willingness to invest in foreign markets. In 2018 alone, foreign-born Yankees accrued more than 20 bWAR for the team, and some of the team’s brightest stars - Miguel Andujar, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka - were signed either as international free agents from Latin America or posted from NPB.
Cuba represents the next evolution in the international marketplace of baseball talent. While the top-level players on the island have already come over, including Victor Victor Mesa just this offseason, there will be more good players available every year. The Yankees have shown a familiarity with Cuban talent, acquiring six such players since the new millennium, tops in baseball. Of course, they also are used to the intricacies of the Japanese posting system, and the process is similar enough between nations that a front office acquainted with one should be able to find good value in the other.
While I’m first and foremost excited for the new posting system because of the freedom and dignity it restores to Cuban players, from a baseball operations standpoint, it’s another tool in the chest of Brian Cashman. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees begin to aggressively pursue Cuban talent, and it pays off by helping keep them among the best in MLB.