In Los Angeles, Yasiel Puig is a mysterious, Louisville-slugging demigod. In Florida, he’s a legislative linchpin.
On Monday, four Florida state senators added an amendment to their version of a bill (SB 1216) that would force Major League Baseball to change its policy on how it handles Cuban players if the league wants to be eligible to receive state subsidies.
The Senate has yet to vote on the revised bill.
The House passed its version, HB 7095, April 25 with a 93-16 vote.
MLB would be lobbying with other sports for a piece of the annual $12 million the state would allocate for stadium renovations or construction projects.
MLB's current rules allow Cuban players to come directly to the US and enter the amateur draft, however that hurts their chances at landing a big pay day.
Players in foreign countries other than Cuba can negotiate with teams before signing a contract, which is why the majority of Cuban players establish residency in a different country first in order to sign multi-million-dollar contracts.
An example is Puig, whom the Dodgers signed in 2012 to a seven-year, $42 million contract.
According to the Associated Press, Florida House representatives Matt Gaetz, R-Okaloosa, and Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami-Dade, first inserted the language into their bill after reading about Puig’s story in a Los Angeles Magazine article.
The Dodgers and Puig have both refused to comment on the validity of the magazine's story.
If the bill passes, it would force MLB to comply in a number of ways, such as:
- Any Cuban player who is at least 17 years old and arrives to the United States after the most recent amateur draft would be allotted the same free agent status as players who are residents of any country other than the US, Puerto Rico, or Canada.
- MLB would have to notify the Attorney General if it believes a Cuban player was brought to the state as part of human smuggling or trafficking activity.
In that same AP report, the Major League Baseball Player’s Association said it plans to work with MLB on the issue.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said his office will also work with the MLBPA on the situation, but it disputes the lawmakers premise that Cuban players defect solely through illegal means, according to a Tampa Bay Times report.