For years, dozens of both major and minor league players would return home to Venezuela for a 63-game winter-ball season in the 75-year-old Liga Venezolana de Beísbol Profesional, or LVBP. Now, due to a political embargo, this will no longer be the case.
Major League Baseball recently issued a statement banning all of their affiliated players from participating in the Venezuela winter league this season. The new policy coincides with President Donald Trump’s embargo against Venezuela’s government, which has had a year-long economic crisis and political controversy.
Results Of Move
A move like this could lead to substantial repercussions. Some believe that this decision will affect the relationship between MLB and Venezuela, similar to the strained relation the league already has with Cuba, another embargoed country whose deal with MLB to allow their players to sign without defecting was thwarted by President Trump.
There is another development that could form from MLB not allowing their affiliated players to play in the LVBP. Over the years, Venezuela has developed into a baseball powerhouse, with dozens of talented, major-league level players coming into the States. Ronald Acuña Jr., Jose Altuve, Willson Contreras, and Gleyber Torres are a few of the 95 players from Venezuela who have appeared in the majors this season alone.
However, some believe Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president whose claim to the presidency has been disputed all year, would retaliate by banning MLB from signing amateur players from his country. This move would significantly change the landscape of the future of baseball, given all of the talent signed from Venezuela over the years.
It would also result in more 12- to 13-year-olds moving out of Venezuela before attempting to sign with a big-league club, something that already has begun in recent months.
At the very least, a move like that would be especially significant for the talent pool in the minor leagues, where hundreds of Venezuelan ballplayers currently play. As far as taking away the option of playing LVBP winter ball, all of these minor leaguers who earn below-minimum-wage salaries would have to try to earn jobs in the Dominican, Mexican, or Puerto Rican winter leagues.
For the time being, MLB will continue to scout and sign amateur players in Venezuela, as there is no rule prohibiting it for the time being. But given the amount of unrest and tension that has formed and will likely develop as a result of this decision, the window of opportunity may be closing fast.