Thursday, April 26, 2007

Beisbol Cubano

The New York Times reports that MLB is salivating over the possibility of getting its hands on Cuban ballplayers once Castro dies, er, I mean, starts to "hang back."

It's admittedly hard to know how good the talent there truly is. However, I think the defectors we've had in the past several years indicates that while Cuba will always have a handful of MLB-quality guys, it isn't the Comstock Lode about which experts once speculated. Remember the hype over Rene Arocha, anyone?

Cuba, with a population of about 11 million, has about 2 million more people than the Dominican Republic, which suggests that it may produce slightly more players than does the latter. But the Dominican is wide open, more prosperous, and every team in Major League Baseball has had a training academy there for years. As such, it's safe to assume that we've squeezed way more baseball talent out of the Dominican Republic than we will get out of Cuba for some time. My guess: The teams that do the best in exploiting Cuban talent will only see a modest uptick in the quality of their rosters, and at a great price, given the considerable work it will take to get a foothold in Havana. Worth it? Sure, because it's always good for a team to expand its scouting efforts. But I don't think it will provide benefits that are on an order of magnitude greater than, say, putting more scouts in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, or hell, Texas.

Fun tidbit from the Times article, though:

One major league general manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to reveal his team’s intentions for Cuba, said his team had plans but would be restricted by whatever rules baseball imposed . . "What happens if Cuba becomes free is going to depend on the rules M.L.B. puts in place," the general manager said. "We are keeping our eye on the situation, but we can’t do anything until the rules are different. We would treat it like any other Latin American country and look to put training facilities there."

Oooh, explosive stuff, Mr. GM. Glad your anonymity has been maintained. If your boss knew you were dropping bombs like "we're going to follow the rules" and "keep our eye on the situation," you'd be on the dole by next Tuesday!