With the highest profile Cuban defector in some time making news again — Aroldis Chapman has apparently become a resident of Andorra and is asking MLB to grant him free agency — I thought it might be time to revisit the issue of Cuban defectors and your Toronto Blue Jays.
If you haven’t been following this blog, I can’t say I blame you. But here’s what you’ve missed so far: First, I wondered why the Jays didn’t take advantage of Canada’s friendlier relations with Cuba and pillage the Cuban baseball system to Toronto’s benefit. Then I went and asked former Jays assistant GM Bart Given about it.
I figured that would be the end of that, but then one day an email turned up in my inbox that gave me (almost) all the answers I was looking for. Joe Kehoskie, player agent and legendary aide to defecting Cubans, somehow stumbled upon this blog and decided to help me out. Here’s his explanation as to why the Jays can’t get an advantage on the other squadrons:
It happened so long ago that Bart Given apparently is unaware of it (which is likely true of most MLB execs under the age of 60), but when it comes to Cuba and Cuban players, all MLB teams are governed by the so-called Kuhn Directive, which was issued by former MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1977 precisely to preempt the scenario you outlined in your articles.
The Kuhn Directive essentially extended the U.S. embargo of Cuba to all MLB teams, rather than only those in the U.S., in order to prevent Toronto and Montreal from gaining an unfair advantage over their U.S.-based counterparts. I’ve never actually seen the document, but apparently the Kuhn Directive forbids all MLB teams from scouting in Cuba, or otherwise attempting to procure Cuban players who are still residents of Cuba, for as long as the U.S. embargo of Cuba remains in effect.
This answered my questions, but also created a new one: How exactly does the Kuhn Directive read?
Google’s not very helpful in this regard so, I’ve been trying my luck on the phone with the MLB commissioner’s office. I don’t expect much to come of it, but if I hear anything, I’ll continue this series.
One last thing — I asked Joe if Toronto might have any advantages when it comes to signing Cubans who’ve defected. His answer was not what I was hoping for:
If anything, I’d say the Blue Jays are at a slight disadvantage when it comes to signing Cubans — at least those who are ready for the majors — simply because of the additional layer of government red tape that would be involved in those players needing to cross the border 1-2 dozen times per year. But all in all, that’s a relatively minor issue, and I can’t imagine any Cuban player or agent would spurn the Blue Jays if everything else lined up well.