Major League Baseball teams were, briefly, allowed to sign Cuban baseball players without needing the players to defect to the United States, but that policy, enabled by the Obama administration, has been struck down by the current administration.
On Monday, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported the Trump administration had decided not to allow teams to continue signing players through the Cuban Baseball Federation, and instead any Cuban players will have needed to defect to the U.S. prior to joining a team.
The letter written to MLB cites a section of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations that allows for transactions to be made for sponsoring or hiring a Cuban national to work in the United States, but prohibits those payments to be made to the Cuban government. The letter states any payments made to the Cuban Baseball Federation are payments to the Cuban government, and as such are not authorized.
As Passan notes, the initial deal authorized by the Obama administration was in an effort to ease tensions between the two sides. The Trump administration is apparently not interested in such a policy and will, as such, force MLB clubs to return to the old way of signing Cuban players, which brings with it a bevy of issues, including issues with human trafficking.