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Marco Rubio is changing his brand (somewhat), reshaping his views on a wide range of issues, in reaction to Donald Trump’s Republican Party. (Image via The Washington Post)

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Crying foul: Marco Rubio pitches Donald Trump to nix Cuban baseball deal

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio took to Twitter Thursday, lobbying President Donald Trump to block a deal between Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Cuban Baseball Federation (CBF) to facilitate Cuban players’ passage to the U.S.

“I am very confident that & will bring an end to this terrible one-sided deal,” Rubio wrote in part on Twitter.

Rubio’s primary concern seems to be with the level of control the Cuban government has over the CBF.

The proposed three-year agreement, announced Dec. 19 by Major League Baseball as a way to “end the dangerous trafficking of Cuban players,” allows players from Cuba to sign with North American teams under rules similar to arraignments now in place with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

“We believe that this agreement accomplishes that objective and will allow the next generation of Cuban players to pursue their dream without enduring many of the hardships experienced by current and former Cuban players who have played Major League Baseball,” Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a news release announcing the deal.

In seeking to sign players who are 24 or younger and under contract with the Cuban Baseball Federation, major-league teams would have to pay the federation fees equal to 25 percent of any signing bonuses. The federation would be able to approve or reject the requests.

For Cuban players 25 and older and who have six or more years of professional experience, Major League Baseball wouldn’t need the consent of the federation. However, fees of 15 percent to 20 percent of the players’ contracts would need to be paid to the federation.

Because of U.S. embargo rules, Cuban players are barred from negotiating as free agents while still in Cuba, and those who defect directly to America must enter the annual amateur draft.

Such a fee wouldn’t be unique to Cuban players. Similar payments are made to leagues in Japan and South Korea when players from those countries want to move to the U.S.

And the deal could spare players from making the dangerous journey of fleeing Cuba in order to play stateside. Because Cuba currently blocks players from leaving for the MLB, players such as Yasuel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes, and former Miami Marlins star Jose Fernandez are forced to find their own way to flee the island nation and make it to the U.S.

But Rubio argues because the Cuban government has control over the CBF, any payments made to the league would effectively be a payment to the Cuban government. That would likely violate the current trade embargo between the U.S. and Cuba.

“Legality of recent agreement between MLB & Cuban Baseball Federation rests on Obama era ruling that federation not controlled by Cuban govt,” Rubio wrote Thursday.

“This is not just factually incorrect it is a farce & I am working to get it overruled as soon as possible.”

Rubio points to a piece by conservative publication National Review, which criticizes the deal. The piece notes that President Barack Obama‘s Treasury Department “gave MLB special permission to negotiate this deal despite the embargo, which usually prevents sending money to the regime.”

Now, Rubio wants Trump to direct the Treasury Department to change its stance, which would effectively quash the deal between the two leagues.

Rubio has been joined by U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and U.S. Sen.-elect Rick Scott in opposing the deal. But Diaz-Balart predicts Trump will end up nixing the agreement.

“Thankfully, we have a president who stands in solidarity with the Cuban people,” Diaz-Balart said.

“I am confident that he will not facilitate any exploitative agreement to benefit a regime with an egregious human rights record, and that opposes U.S. interests around the world.”

In 2014, the Florida Legislature approved a controversial new stadium-funding process — which has gone unused — that includes a provision that effectively shut out Major League Baseball from the money until draft requirements were revamped for players defecting from Cuba.

___

The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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