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Cuban baseball player Yasmani Tomas defects

HAVANA (Reuters) - A 23-year-old Cuban outfielder has defected, official media reported on Friday, apparently in hopes of joining compatriots who have signed lucrative contracts with Major League Baseball teams.

Yasmani Tomas, a member of the Cuban national team and the Havana-based Industriales club, left Cuba "through unscrupulous, illegal human trafficking," the Communist Party newspaper Granma reported.

In 291 games over five seasons in the Cuban league, Tomas hit 43 home runs with a .289 batting average, .386 on-base percentage and .506 slugging percentage. In six games in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, he two home runs with a hitting line of .375/.412/.813.

While likely to sign, Tomas is not expected to receive a huge contract similar to the record-setting 6-year, $68 million deal that defector Jose Abreu signed last year with the Chicago White Sox. Abreu has hit 20 home runs so far this season, third most in the league.

Since 2009, at least 20 Cuban defectors have signed MLB contracts worth a combined total of more than $300 million according to data on Baseball-Reference.com.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Grant McCool)

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