Will now pitch alongside Aroldis Chapman
HAVANA TIMES — Cuban pitcher Raisel Iglesias, 24, penned a seven-year 27 million dollar contract with the Cincinnati Reds over the weekend, the latest in a string of ballplayers from the island expected to fast-track into Major League Baseball.
With so many defections of late, (note: the only way Cuban players can play in MLB is by abandoning the island illegally) the Cuban baseball league has become a sort of unofficial farm club for a variety of MLB teams.
One team, the Chicago White Sox now has three Cubans in their starting lineup (Jose Dariel Abreu, Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez), and another, the Los Angleles Dodgers may have the same situation in the not too distant future (Yasiel Puig, Erisbel Arruebarrena and Alexander Guerrero).
Signing Iglesias was no easy feat for the Reds as several clubs were interested in his services. “This was really a team effort in getting this deal done, because it was a lengthy process,” the Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told MLB.com. “There were a lot of people involved and a lot of clubs involved.”
Iglesias is still awaiting his US visa to be able to come over to the United States with a work permit. He had fled Cuba in November, 2013 after a failed attempt in September of that same year which left him sanctioned by the Cuban league.
Iglesias was a top hurler in recent years for the Cuban national team and besides a 94-96 MPH fastball has a variety of pitches, something that usually interests MLB scouts. These include a curveball, slider and changeup.
With the left handed Chapman as the Reds star closer, the role foreseen for Iglesias is as a starter. He pitched principally as a reliever for both the Cuban national team and his local Isla de Juventud team in the Cuban baseball league.
Chapman, a starter for Holguin in the Cuban league, was signed by the Reds to a 6-year $30.25 million contract in January 2010. A National League All-Star in 2013, he had the misfortune during this year’s spring training to be hit above the eye with line drive that led to head surgery. However, less than two months later he was back in his role as the teams closer.
Once all the immigration paperwork is sorted out, MLB said the Reds will most likely start out Iglesias in their Minor League System to help him get used to a new type of baseball.