With no clear-cut reasoning, the Trump administration’s State Department recently elected to disallow an agreement that Major League Baseball negotiated with the Cuban Baseball Federation to allow Cuban players to come to the United States more easily to play baseball.

This was an agreement the two sides worked on for years, since the Obama administration initiated efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.

Cuban players who have sought to play Major League Baseball have had to defect and give up their Cuban citizenship, establish residency in another country and then work toward putting on showcases to impress teams that would then bid for services as international players.

Many of these players over the past 20-plus years have actually had to take perilous trips in rafts from Cuba to make their escapes. Some of those trips are set up by highly unscrupulous agents who really are nothing more than human traffickers who extort unseemly high percentages of the players’ bonuses.

Most often, these extortion efforts threaten the safety of family members left behind in Cuba.

The agreement between MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation would have put an end to the need for these agents by allowing these players the freedom to come to the U.S. to pursue their dreams and have a set percentage of their signing bonus (around 25 percent) go to the Cuban Baseball Federation. Of course with Cuba being a communist country, the Cuban Baseball Federation is an arm of the Cuban government.

But so what? Doesn’t the good that this new agreement would implement remove the dangers associated with defections, escapes and the agents/human traffickers?

But then again, allowing this agreement between MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation to go forward and allow a sense of normalcy to grow in the transactional world of international scouting and acquisitions wouldn’t allow for yet another rollback of an Obama administration initiative. It’s really that simple. Without the goal being to discredit the man he replaced as this current administration’s raison d’ etre, it’s hard to objectively hook any real purpose to negate a deal of this nature.

Rebuild Memo

It’s only the second month of this baseball season, and the Orioles rebuild battle has really just started. And it’s going to be a painful, interesting and fun time for Orioles fans.

The hiring of Mike Elias and his top assistant, Sig Mejdal, in November were the first steps in the process. And while Brandon Hyde’s hiring was significant in December, the next really seminal date in Birdland is coming on June 3 as the Orioles get the No. 1 pick in the game.

And if anything can be discerned from the early going in 2019, it’s that the Orioles have a really good chance to also be picking first in the 2020 and ‘21 drafts.

In preparing for my fantasy baseball draft in late March, a buddy of mine shared some info he gets from a website called BaseballHQ.com, which creates valuations on players. Just like in fantasy baseball, starting pitching is the most dominant area you have to get your valuations correct. So I thought it a worthwhile endeavor to lay out the black and white of when the Orioles can hope to be good again.

Let’s just look at a few American teams and the valuations their starting rotations have vs. the hometown team. Let’s start with the Cleveland Indians, who obviously have the best rotation in baseball — Kluber $41, Carrasco $31, Bauer $27, Clevinger $21 and Bieber $17, which totals $137.

Let’s look at the defending World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox, who have a rotation comprised of Chris Sale $46, David Price $21, Rick Porcello $15, Eduardo Rodriguez $12 and Nathan Eovaldi $9, adding up to $103; the Houston Astros (excluding free agent Dallas Keuchel) Justin Verlander $36, Gerrit Cole $29, Collin McHugh $12, Brad Peacock $11, Josh James a rookie at $11 and a kid who has not thrown a single pitch in the majors, Forrest Whitley $3, and the recently acquired Wade Miley $2. That tallies $104. And finally, we’ll look at the Tampa Bay Rays, who currently only list starting pitchers Blake Snell $28, Charlie Morton $18 and Tyler Glasnow $7 — which comes to a total of $53.

Now let’s look at the Orioles rotation and its BaseballHQ.com valuations:  Dylan Bundy -$8, Alex Cobb -$3, Andrew Cashner -$11, Davis Hess -$7 and Josh Rogers -$6. Add those up and you get a total valuation of Orioles starters at -$18.

So just using the Indians, the very best rotation there is in the game, the Orioles are $166 apart in valuation.

Even at $137, the Indians are not really all that close to winning a World Series. They are more realistically where the Orioles were a couple of years back – good but not sustainable and looking to merely extend that window of contention that keeps fans engaged.

When the Orioles start having a rotation that is +$20-$30, then you’ll know things are turning around.

Stan “The Fan” Charles is founder and publisher of PressBox.