Yasiel Puig is one of the most talked about young players in Major League Baseball. He made his way from Cuba and wound up playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but new revelations about how he got to the U.S. are now raising questions about his past and his safety.
With his power at the plate, Puig has electrified the Dodgers. But ever since he joined the team last June, rumors have been swirling as fast as he rounds the bases.
Jesse Katz is the author of a chilling story in Los Angeles Magazine detailing Puig's escape from Cuba. The magazine claims the journey was funded by a Miami man named Raul Pachecho, who, in June of 2012, offered Cuban smugglers $250,000 to take Puig from Cuba to Mexico with the help of a Mexican drug cartel. But then Pachecho allegedly did not immediately pay up.
"Once they get to Mexico that's when the craziness begins," Katz told CBS News' Ben Tracy. "He's in a dumpy motel off the coast of Cancun and they want their money, and they hold him captive there for twenty-some-odd days as the price for his head is being negotiated."
Puig's Miami backer sent in a rescue team that brought him to Mexico City.
"And literally within a couple days he's auditioned for Major League scouts," Katz said.
The Dodgers gave him a seven-year contract worth $42 million. According to Los Angeles Magazine, Raul Pachecho, the man who helped him escape, gets 20 percent of Puig's lifetime earnings.
Puig did not respond to our request for an interview.
Many would describe this as human trafficking, and Katz said he doesn't see any difference in this situation.
"This is human trafficking as best as I can tell," Katz said. "I think on this end, Major League Baseball, the Dodgers, the U.S. government, doesn't really want to know about what he went through and what he suffered to get here."
Since 2009, at least 20 Cuban defectors have signed Major League Baseball contracts worth more than $300 million, according to Los Angeles Magazine.
Author Peter Bjarkman says the United States' relationship with Cuba makes it a complicated process.
"Players in other countries don't have to defect," Bjarkman said. "Because of Major League Baseball's regulations, in order to sign as a free agent, he has to first take residence in a third country. He can't come directly to the United States."
Puig has become famous for his bravado on the field and his speed off of it. He was pulled over in Florida last year for driving 110 miles per hour with his mother in the car. The Dodgers declined to comment on Puig's past, preferring that their right fielder focuses on the game and not on allegations that seem to come out of left field.