MLB to block players from playing in Venezuelan league due to embargo

Baseball fans showing their support of Venezuelan players as the Miami Marlins hosted the Cleveland Indians at Marlins Park in Miami this past April

Baseball fans showing their support of Venezuelan players as the Miami Marlins hosted the Cleveland Indians at Marlins Park in Miami this past April

Major League Baseball announced this week that it has taken action to comply with President Trump's executive order imposing an embargo against socialist Nicolas Maduro-controlled Venezuela.

Major League Baseball is banning players from participating in the Venezuelan Winter League in one of the first public repercussions of new USA economic sanctions against the Venezuelan government.

According to ESPN, MLB officials carefully parsed the economic embargo guidelines to see if they covered players participating in the Venezuelan baseball league, and determined that the league's sponsorship by a state-run oil company posed a problem.

MLB said Thursday it is in contact with the USA government to determine how to proceed under the new sanctions against President Nicolás Maduro's administration and at least temporarily suspending involvement in the league.

While the immediate impact of the ban means players with Venezuelan ties and others will have to scramble to find an offseason league, the embargo could ultimately threaten the flow of Venezuelan talent to the majors.

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Sources also told ESPN that they fear the ban could have larger and lasting repercussions, creating a situation similar to the complicated relationship between the league and Cuba, particularly by prompting Maduro to retaliate by barring amateur players from being able to sign with the MLB. As such, support for the league is likely to be interpreted as support for the Venezuelan government. This move would significantly change the landscape of the future of baseball, given all of the talent signed from Venezuela over the years.

The Trump administration in April scuttled a deal between MLB and the Cuban government that would have allowed Cuban players to sign directly with the league instead of taking the circuitous and risky paths offered by traffickers. While a number of major league and minor league players planned to compete in the LVBP, contracts are not typically agreed upon until September and October. In spring, the administration shut down a deal between MLB and the Cuban government "that would have allowed Cuban players to sign directly with the league instead of taking the circuitous and risky paths offered by traffickers".

Until then, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA can only wait to see the consequences of the potential action.

One source consulted on the issue, who asked not to be identified, said MLB's move would affect minor league players as well. Another agent, who expected multiple clients to make up for below-minimum-wage minor league salaries by playing in Venezuela, said he hopes clients still can get jobs in the Dominican, Mexican or Puerto Rican leagues.

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