According to The Washington Post, the Trump administration has scrapped a deal that permitted Major League Baseball teams to sign Cuban players without those potential signees having to defect first. The White House defended this decision by saying the Cuban Baseball Federation was part of the Cuban government and nullified the deal on account of a current ban on trade with Cuba.

The deal between MLB and Cuba had been expected to run through the 2021 season, and allowed Cuban-born players to ink deals with MLB clubs under the same rules as international players from, say, South Korea and Japan. That means that players over the age of 25 were allowed to sign with organizations if they ponied up a "release fee" to their Cuban team. Other players were also free to sign contracts with minor league squads.

Back in December the executive director for the MLB Players Association, Tony Clark, said that the intent of the original agreement was to create a "safe, legal process for entry to our system" in lieu of the previous system (such as it was) that involved defection.

At that time, the U.S. Department of Treasury signed off on the deal, but since then the current administration has decided the baseball federation is too close to the Cuban sports ministry. This interpretation is a reversal of an Obama-era policy which deemed the two to be separate. 

According to NBC News, Ben Rhodes, who had led the Obama administration's efforts to restore U.S.-Cuban relations, called this newest move "cruel" while also adding that it "serves no purpose." He added that the issue is a humanitarian one for the players and their families.

In contrast with that, a senior Trump administration official stated that the Obama-era policy had essentially amounted to trafficking of individual Cuban players with payments made to the Cuban government instead of smugglers.

On Monday, the Cuban Baseball Federation stated through Twitter that "The agreement with #MLB seeks to stop the trafficking of human beings, encourage cooperation and raise the level of baseball. Any contrary idea is false news. Attacks with political motivation against the agreement achieved harm the athletes, their families and the fans."

Many All-Star caliber players currently on MLB rosters have come from the island nation including, off the top of my head: Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Aroldis Chapman, Yasiel Puig, Yuli Gurriel, and Yoenis Cespedes.

Worth noting is that the new policy would've given young players more opportunities in the American professional ranks, as a lot of people who defect don't come anywhere near the success of the aformentioned players.

Bleacher Report adds that, earlier this month, MLB teams received a list of 34 eligible players from Cuba with some of those players expected to sign and potentially play at some point in 2019. That is no longer the case:

As for how things will proceed now, NBC News writes that any agreements for Cuban players to play on U.S. teams will "require specific licenses from the Treasury Department exempting them from the prohibition."