Just over a month ago, Aroldis Chapman defected from Cuba. That led me to wonder what, if any, advantage the Jays might have over American teams when it comes to negotiating with Cubans. I mean, Cubans can travel to Canada, but they can’t travel to the States.
In the comment section of the previous post, the wise LJ of The Te of Inglett suggested I put my question to former Jays assistant general manager and now head honcho of the great Inside the Majors, Bart Given. And I did. And he responded. And here’s what he had to say:
Being a Canadian team would really only benefits the Jays scouting the players in Cuba – assuming the scout was actually Canadian. Americans can actually get to Cuba now – and can also see the Cubans in international competition – so it’s hardly an advantage to be a Canadian scout anymore.
A Cuban needs to defect in order to leave Cuba – then set-up residence outside Canada, USA and Puerto Rico to avoid the draft and become a free agent. Once a FA – he obviously signs to the highest bidder regardless of location.
There has been some discussion in the past about the Jays establishing a presence in Cuba prior to “the Fall of Castro” in order to hit the ground running when it opens up. I don’t think anything like this has taken place
Makes sense to me, except the part where the Jays don’t have a Cuban office set up yet. The success of the Jays in the early days was based largely on the team’s work in the Caribbean, scouting and signing some incredible talent from the islands. If, as everyone seems to think, relations between Cuba and the U.S. are going to thaw — and steps are being taken — doesn’t it make sense to know the island inside and out? Sure, Americans may be able to get to Cuba, but not with the ease of a Canadian. And yes, Cubans can be scouted when they play internationally, but surely there’s a lot of talent to be mined beyond the Cuban national team.
Of course, if a team was going to start Cubans, it might want to keep the operations quiet to avoid problems from the Cuban government, so one might say “maybe the Jays are down there already!” but really, could you imagine J.P. keeping something like that quiet?
p.s. If you’re wondering what Aroldis Chapman is up to, ESPN’s got a great story on his defection, setting up camp in Spain and signing with an agent who doesn’t have a single Major League client.