BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Cubs and White Sox are two of the teams under consideration by major league baseball to be selected to play the Cuban national team in an exhibition in Cuba late next spring, if MLB can secure an agreement for the game.
The Chicago teams have two of the better young Cuban hitters in the majors, in Cubs right fielder Jorge Soler, the 2015 rookie, and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, the 2014 All-Star and American League rookie of the year.
“If and when MLB approves that and the league moves forward, we would be one of many candidates to play in that game, under certain circumstances,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said.
MLB solicited interest from clubs in committing to the potentially tough travel schedule just before the season opens.
Some teams with interest already have been informed they will not be considered, according to sources.
“I don’t to speculate too much about it because it may not actually happen, and we may not be the team,” Epstein said. “But it would obviously be an enriching experience for the players and staff that went down there.”
In March1999, the Baltimore Orioles became the first major league team in 40 years to play in Cuba when they played the Cuban national team in Havana, in the first of two exhibitions between the teams (also two months later in Baltimore).
The two countries restored diplomatic relations this summer, including the reopening of their embassies in each country – leading to hope and speculation within baseball regarding an eventual agreement allowing players to legally leave Cuba for opportunities in the U.S.
Notes: Epstein said he still has not met with Ricketts about an extension on his five-year, $18.5-million deal that expires after next season – and he doesn’t think he will anytime soon. “Right now I don’t have a minute for anything besides trades and free agency and hiring,” he said. “I’m completely happy in the situation, and I’m not worried about it, and I know it’ll take care of itself.” … Even if the Cubs add the starting pitching they desire this winter, Epstein said they don’t see a scenario in which Jason Hammel – who struggled in the second half and playoffs – would be moved to the bullpen as struggling Edwin Jackson was at the end of 2014. “I think we’re expecting the guy who pitched in the first half [2.86 ERA] and the guy who pitched in 2014 [2.98 for Cubs],” he said.