Dodgers News: Yasiel Puig Among Cuban Defectors Highlighted In MLB Network Documentary
Dodgers News: Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig Excited To Visit Cuba
Desmond Boylan-AP Photo

While MLB saw the arrival of Cuban talent decades ago, a mass exodus didn’t begin until recent years. An episode of “MLB Network Presents” titled, “Cuba: Island of Baseball,” examined the challenges the success stories and challenges that come with players leaving family behind.

In 2010, the Cincinnati Reds signed Aroldis Chapman to a six-year, $30.25 million contract. It was the largest pact signed by a Cuban defector to that point. Since then, Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu have been among those to escape from Cuba and find riches in the Majors.

Cespedes received a four-year, $36 million contract from the Oakland Athletics, and most recently signed a $110 million contract with the New York Mets, also a four-year deal.

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Puig for $42 million over seven years, and Abreu received a $68 million contract (six years) from the Chicago White Sox. Abreu’s deal was the richest ever given to a first-time player in MLB history.

Roughly one year later, Yasmany Tomas signed a six-year, $68.5 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“I think they should feel the same way, happy and proud,” Chapman said in the special of Cespedes, Puig and Abreu. “They are the ones who set the value that the Cuban ballplayers have today.”

The path to freedom and wealth in the United States is similar for Cuban defectors, though some have faced a more harrowing experience than others. Such appears to have been the case for Puig, as the details of his defection are often speculated about, while the 26-year-old has remained mum.

“In order to thrive and be someone in life, we did what we had to do,” Puig said in the documentary. “But I continue to be Cuban and I’m succeeding [in the United States] for my country.”

He did expand on Yulieski Gurriel’s defection. “It shocked me because he could have done it a long time ago,” Puig said.

“But he didn’t do it before because of his family and the love he has for his country.” Gurriel signed a five-year, $74.5 million contract with the Houston Astros. The Dodgers were thought to have some interest in Cuba’s most decorated baseball player.

Gurriel was soon after followed to the Majors by his younger brother Lourdes, who signed for seven years and $22 million with the Toronto Blue Jays.

With the United States moving to normalize relations with Cuba, the hope is it will lend to an improved — safer — transition for the country’s athletes.