MLB Bans Players From Venezuelan Winter League Amid Trump Policy
MLB is "suspending players from participating in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League this winter as it seeks clarification on how to comply with the U.S.-imposed economic embargo against the government of Venezuela," according to sources cited by Diamond & Vyas of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Sources said that the "prohibition applies" to both MLB and MiLB players. The ruling "won’t prevent Venezuelan players from returning to their home country in the off-season." President Trump signed an executive order "freezing all assets from the government" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and "prohibiting transactions with it, unless specifically exempted." Venezuela’s baseball league, "known as Liga Venezolana de Beisbol Profesional in Spanish, is heavily sponsored by Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state-owned oil company." Venezuelans "make up the majority of LVBP’s eight teams, though players from other countries play in the league every year." Participation by American players has "dwindled in recent years as unrest in the country has grown." MLB’s action in Venezuela "comes just months after it faced scrutiny over its efforts in Cuba." In April, the Trump administration "blocked MLB from signing players directly from Cuba to play professional in the U.S., nullifying a historic deal the league struck in December with the island nation’s baseball federation" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/23).
FALLOUT: ESPN.com's Jeff Passan wrote the "potential reprecussions" of the Venezuelan prohibition "could be significant." Sources said that they "feared the ban would warp the heretofore strong bond between MLB and Venezuela and spawn a situation similar to that of Cuba." They added that the "murkiness of the LVBP's link to a government-run business spurred MLB to consider the ban and consult" with the MLBPA. Sources also said that "one consequence of MLB's plan ... could be Maduro retaliating by banning the league from signing amateur players in Venezuela." The country has "proved to be a hotbed of talent," with Braves RF Ronald Acuna Jr., Astros 2B Jose Altuve, Cubs C Willson Contreras and Yankees 2B Gleyber Torres all hailing from there (ESPN.com, 8/22).