Cuban baseball player agrees to $68 million Major League deal: reports

Sat Oct 19, 2013 6:23am EDT
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By David Adams

MIAMI (Reuters) - Baseball player José Abreu, who left his native Cuba in August, agreed to a six-year, $68 million contract with the Chicago White Sox on Friday, according to several media reports, which would be the largest rookie free-agent contract ever awarded to an international player in Major League Baseball.

Abreu, 26, an all-star first baseman for one of the communist-ruled island's best teams, was granted residency in Haiti, earning himself lucrative free agency status under the signing rules of Major League Baseball.

Abreu is a former teammate of Los Angeles Dodgers' rookie sensation Yasiel Puig, who left Cuba in 2012 and signed a seven-year, $42 million contract. Puig made his major league debut on June 3 and had a major impact on the team's surge into the post-season.

Calls to Abreu's agents were not immediately returned and the White Sox have yet to make an official announcement., Fox Sports and the Chicago Tribune were among the media reporting the deal.

Cuban athletes, especially baseball players, have defected in record numbers in recent years, with Abreu becoming the 22nd currently contracted by the U.S. major leagues, several earning multimillion-dollar salaries.

Players have chosen various routes to leave the island, including homemade rafts and smuggler boats.

The exodus of players is attributed to $20-a-month state-controlled salaries, contrasting sharply with the potential big money abroad.

The Cuban government blames the defections in large part on U.S. economic sanctions that do not allow contracts with Cuban athletes who pay taxes to the government. Cuba also requires that overseas player contracts be approved by the government, and has lately approved a handful of contracts for players with foreign teams in Mexico and Japan, though not the United States.   Continued...