The Mexican League announced that it has suspended Cuban outfielder Alfredo Despaigne for life for using a false Dominican passport to play for the Campeche Pirates.
Should Despaigne ever choose to leave Cuba, his Mexican League suspension would not affect his ability to play in Major League Baseball. According to MLB, while the league honors the contractual rights of the Mexican League (as it does with other foreign professional leagues), MLB does not have have any agreement to honor Mexican League suspensions. The Mexican League is an associate member of Minor League Baseball, but it is an independent league.
Last month the league had temporarily suspended Despaigne after Dominican authorities told ESPN Deportes that his passport was fraudulent, but the league has since said it received official word from the Dominican government that Despaigne’s passport was false. The Mexican League also announced that Enrique Rosado, the president of the Campeche Pirates, is banned for life from holding any title in the league.
Despaigne, who turns 28 next week, had been playing for Cuba in a deal brokered by the Cuban government that allowed him to play for Campeche and earn a salary from the Pirates, then return home to Cuba when the season ended. Despaigne had played for Campeche at the end of the Mexican League season last year too, but at the Winter Meetings in December, Minor League Baseball told the league it would prefer it didn’t sign Cuban residents, since it could create an issue with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which enforces the Cuban embargo. So to play in the league, Despaigne was using a Dominican passport, although given that OFAC would only care that a player is still a Cuban resident, the logic of using that passport to allow him to play in the league isn’t clear.
Despaigne joined Campeche on April 23 and hit .346/.407/.603 in 20 games for the Pirates. During the 2013-14 Cuban season that ended in March, Despaigne led Serie Nacional in OPS by batting .311/.474/.533 in 254 plate appearances split between Granma in the first half and Santiago de Cuba in the second half.
The next step for Despaigne could be a contract with a Japanese team, following in the path of Frederich Cepeda and Yulieski Gourriel, who are already playing in Nippon Professional Baseball on government-brokered contracts, with righthander Vladimir Garcia possibly joining them as well.