Star pitcher for Cuba at the WBC defects, seeks to play in the MLB

Yariel Rodriguez, Cuba’s starting pitcher in the World Baseball Classic, has defected and will seek to play in the Major Leagues as a free man instead of playing as a slave of the communist Castro dictatorship. Rodriguez has cut ties with the Cuban Baseball Federation, which had contracted him out to Japan’s Chunichi Dragons, keeping most of the money the Japanese paid for the player while likely paying Rodriguez a miniscule fraction.

Via Martí Noticias (my translation):

Cuban pitcher breaks contract with Japan to seek a path to the MLB

Right-hander Yariel Rodriguez, who was one of the starting pitchers for the Cuban team that made it to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic, broke his contract with the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese baseball league and is looking to sign with a team in the Major Leagues.

The news has been confirmed by baseball journalist Francys Romero and reported on several sports sites.

Rodriguez is the first player on the official WBC roster who decided to cut ties with the Cuban Baseball Federation and is now in the Dominican Republic.

Ivan Prieto, who was a bullpen catcher and not on the official roster, took advantage of the semifinal games in Miami to remain in the U.S.

Because he is over 25 and has played more than six seasons, Yariel Rodriguez will not be subject to restrictions once he obtains free agent status. This will allow him to sign an unlimited contract with the highest bidder, which could be as high as $50 million over three seasons.

Although he was the starting pitcher at the WBC, he was a reliever during his three seasons in Japan.

In 175.1 innings, he struck out 188 and has a 3.03 ERA with ten wins and ten losses in 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Rodriguez is not the first Cuban player to break a contract in Japan to seek of a path to the Major Leagues in the U.S.

In the past, pitchers Andy Rodriguez and Hector Mendoza did the same, as well as outfielders Adolis Garcia and Oscar Colas.

Today, Garcia is one of the main sluggers for the Texas Rangers, while Andy Rodriguez plays in the minor leagues for the same organization. Colas will debut in the MLB next Thursday when the season kicks off.