Signing star Cuban players has become the new trend in baseball.
Names like Orlando Hernandez and Jose Contreras made the journey to the United States in the late 90s and early 2000s, respectively. But now, the faces of Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu have become the symbols of success for MLB teams looking to sign Cuban-born players.
Take, for instance, the case of Rusney Castillo.
The Red Sox showed with their 7-year, $72.5 million deal for Castillo that teams are no longer worrying about these unproven Cuban players, who have never played in the major leagues. If anything, clubs are more afraid of missing out on the next Puig or Abreu than overpaying for one.
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White Sox GM Rick Hahn knows there’s a lot of thought and research that goes into bidding for some of these Cuban players. But with the success of Abreu’s transition, Hahn hopes that U.S. Cellular Field becomes an enticing location for future Cuban defectors.
“I think it helps from a couple of standpoints,” Hahn said. “One, obviously enhancing our reputation within that community so we become a destination of choice for future players potentially. Secondly, it reinforces our own confidence in helping with that transition which is difficult for players. It’s another added benefit that we can provide. I’m not naive enough to think that the economics aren’t going to be an extraordinarily important factor in any of these decisions going forward as they have been over the last several years for the players that have come over. I do think it’s fair to argue that we are a fine destination and proven that with how smoothly some of these transitions have gone for us over the last several years.”
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted on Monday that the next two Cuban defectors likely to come to the United States are first baseman Jozzen Cuesta and pitcher Misael Siverio, who are both working out in South Florida on Friday.
Next two Cuban defectors likely to sign - 1B Jozzen Cuesta and LHP Misael Siverio - will work out Friday in South Florida.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 25, 2014
While they are clearly set at first base, the White Sox could potentially monitor the bidding of Siverio. If the South Siders do become players for the next big Cuban prospect, they’ll have a big-time recruiter in Abreu.
“I am very proud and very happy to see Cuban players having success here in the major leagues,” Abreu said through a translator. “There is no doubt about it. But if I ever had a chance to help recruit somebody here for the White Sox, I would be more than happy to do that. I would love to be able to help out, get somebody here and play with that person here.”