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Foreign clubs looking to sign Cuban baseball players, federation says

Foreign clubs looking to sign Cuban baseball players, federation says

Posted by Juan Gavasa on March 24, 2015

Professional clubs from Nicaragua, Mexico, Venezuela, Canada and Europe have expressed interest in signing Cuban baseball players, official media reported, citing the president of the Cuban Amateur Baseball Federation.

Higinio Velez said the clubs interested in signing Cuban players could do so through bilateral agreements with the federation he leads, the Web site Cuba Si reported.

Clubs in South Korea and Taiwan also have expressed interest after the Communist-ruled island - in September 2013 - lifted restrictions on athletes competing in foreign leagues.

Only eight baseball players have been signed by professional clubs - in Mexico, Japan, Canada - since the policy change was adopted.

The first players signed were Michel Enriquez, Alfredo Despaigne and Yordanis Samon, who all inked contracts with a Mexican-league club, the Piratas de Campeche.

In 2014, Frederich Cepeda and Hector Mendoza played for the Yomiuri Giants, while Yulieski Gourriel was signed by the Yokohama DeNA BayStars and his brother Yunieski played for the Quebec Capitales, a member of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball.

But Major League Baseball, the pinnacle of the sport, is barred from signing Cuban-based players due to the United States' longstanding trade embargo against the island.

Earlier this year, MLB told its 30 teams that Cuban players will be considered free agents and be eligible to sign with any club as long as they meet the licensing requirements established by the Treasury Department and establish residency in a third country.

Further changes could be on the horizon after the United States and Cuba last Dec. 17 announced a plan to restore full diplomatic relations.

MLB said after that announcement that it does not have "sufficient details to make a realistic evaluation (but) will continue to track this significant issue."

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