Photo: Scott Morgan / Chicago Tribune

It’s been 40 years since Tony Perez of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine carried the torch for Cuban athletes in Major League Baseball. To Fidel Castro, who banned professional sports after the revolution, Perez was a pain in the ass. So was Livan Hernandez and his half brother, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, who fled the Communist island in the mid-1990’s.

Nowadays, young Cuban players are literally taunting an aging Fidel as they become wealthy in capitalists America. The “new era” invasion led by Yunel Escobar, Alexi Ramirez and Aroldis Chapman peaked in public interest just last season. That’s when Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins and Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers finished first and second respectively in National League “Rookie of the Year” honors. And this year, Chicago White Sox slugger, Jose Dariel Abreu, is sure to win that award in the American League. But the news doesn’t stop there.

puigYasiel Puig

A couple of weeks ago, the Chicago Cubs promoted prize prospect Jorge Soler to their varsity, and the 22 year old outfielder has lived up to all the hype. The 6′-4″, 225 pound rookie has already jacked three home runs and is the first player since 1942 to either produce an RBI or an extra base hit in his opening eight games. What’s more, his current slash line is an incredible .378/.400/.757. Like Puig of the Dodgers, Soler is a five-tool player who isn’t shy about his ability. That said, leg injuries and culture shock have been issues for this kid since he agreed to a nine-year, $30 million deal in 2012. It was all good, though, after a memorable debut at historic Wrigley Field.

“I got a big ovation from the fans and it made me feel at home,” smiled Soler. “Since I signed (with the Cubs) I’ve been waiting for that moment.”

Soler is making $2 million this season and received an initial $6 million bonus to be a Cubbie. But he will be making only $4 million during his prime in the 2018-20 seasons, making the long-term contract a bargain for Chicago ownership. By comparison, Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo recently inked a seven-year, $72.5 million pact with the Boston Red Sox, and will bank a $10.5 million salary in 2015.

Here is a list of the top 10 Cuban players, in order of annual earnings (excluding Castillo), who have used baseball to achieve the American dream:

1. Yoenis Cespedes

Boston Red Sox
$10.5 million
$5 million bonus (Oakland A’s)

2. Alexi Ramirez

Chicago White Sox
$9.5 million
$500K bonus

Alexei_RamirezAlexi Ramirez

3. Jose Dariel Abreu

Chicago White Sox
$7 million
$10 million bonus

4. Yunel Escobar

Tampa Bay Rays
$5 million
475K bonus (Atlanta Braves)

5. Alexander Guerrero

Los Angeles Dodgers
$4 million
$10 million bonus

6. Erisbel Arruebarruena

Los Angeles Dodgers
$4 million
$7.5 million bonus

7. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez

Philadelphia Phillies
$3 million
$2 million bonus

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Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez

8. Aroldis Chapman

Cincinnati Reds
$3 million
$1.5 million bonus

9. Dayan Viciedo

Chicago White Sox
$2,8 million
$4 million bonus

10. Leonys Martin

Texas Rangers
$2.75 million
$5 million bonus

Honorable mention

Yasiel Puig

Los Angeles Dodgers
$2 million
$12 million bonus

Basically, it’s a rags to riches tale for all these Cubans except perhaps for Fernandez. The Marlins star pitcher, who is recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, makes only $635K per season and isn’t even arbitration eligible until 2016. Let’s hope that Jose, barely 22 years old, has found a wise financial adviser.