It seems that every year it’s revealed that a player or two from Central America is older than what their MLB team was led to believe when they originally signed the International free agent. Last year we learned that Miami Marlins reliever Leo Nunez, born in 1983, was actually Juan Carlos Oviedo, born in 1982. Later, during this past off season, we found out that Cleveland Indians pitcher Fausto Carmona was actually three years older and named Roberto Hernandez Heredia. And these are merely the most recent examples.
Identity theft or forged papers are used by Central American prospects to appear younger, and therefore more appealing to Major League teams who will pay out higher signing bonuses for a 17 year old than they would a “washed up” 18 year old.
It’s generally expected that the $2.9 million spending cap on international free agents that the new collective bargaining agreement puts into place will limit those bonuses even further. However, the cap, and the corresponding consequences for going over, don’t take effect until July 2nd of this year, when an entire new fleet of International free agents become available for signing.
Until then, teams are allowed to spend an unlimited amount of money on luring Central American prospects to their clubs. For the remaining International free agents that are eligible to sign contracts, now is a good time to work out a deal. For those who don’t become eligible until the summer, it’s simply a case of bad timing.
According to a report yesterday morning from Dionisio Soldevila of the Associated Press, the Texas Rangers agreed to terms with Dominican outfielder Jairo Beras on a $4.5 million signing bonus. However, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports informs us, Major League Baseball was under the impression that Beras was only 16 years old and therefore ineligible to sign a contract until this coming summer when the spending cap would be in place. By signing a contract, the Rangers and Beras are claiming that the highly touted prospect is actually 17 years old.
According to a further article from Passan, Major League Baseball is in possession of a birth certificate that states a December 25, 1995, date of birth, which would make him ineligible to sign such a contract. In addition, several league executives who spoke with Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus were also led to believe that Beras was 16 years old.
Multiple teams say that Beras had conducted private workouts for them at their respective complexes in the Dominican Republic in the months leading up to the contract. All of those teams claim that at the time of the workouts, Beras claimed a birth date of December 25, 1995 and that he would not be eligible to sign until the July 2 signing date. One team contacted for this piece stated that the Beras camp continually delayed or deferred multiple requests to provide documentation concerning his identification.
In very little time after the signing, MLB announced that it was launching an investigation, and Goldstein suggests that it’s difficult to imagine an outcome of this investigation that doesn’t result in repercussions for Beras.
No matter how the limited facts in this case are interpreted at this point, nearly every interpretation ends with what would be referred to legally as deception. If the player presented himself to be 16 years old—and such a birth certificate submitted to Major League Baseball would be the smoking gun—then the player has misrepresented his age. If Major League Baseball agrees, then his contract with Texas would be voided, and the player would likely be suspended from signing for a period of one year.
Ben Badler of Baseball America spoke with an international scouting director who had similar thoughts.
If he was 16 trying to be 17 to manipulate a loophole, he should be suspended. There’s no way this contract should be approved.
It doesn’t look good for the Rangers or Beras. However, if we learned anything from Ryan Braun’s successful suspension appeal, it’s that we’re not always privy to all of the relevant information. As such, it will be interesting to see how this little baseball drama plays out.
And The Rest
Ryan Howard’s infection setback will sideline him indefinitely. [Philly.com]
John Axford and the Milwaukee Brewers are working on a multiple year contract extension. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
Why exactly were the Baltimore Orioles interested in the Korean pitcher that they couldn’t have? No other team seem interested at the time, and only one scout with the Orioles claims he was a serious prospect. [Baseball America]
A former Houston Astros employee is suing the team after his position was terminated despite promises to the contrary. [FOX Houston]
Quelle surprise! Grady Sizemore is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day, and the Cleveland Indians will provide an update today on his ailing back. [Twitter]
Maple bats, and why rookies must swing higher density sticks this season. [Baseball Nation]
After an important intrasquad game, the Seattle Mariners remain at .500. [Lookout Landing]
Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Luke Scott had some interesting things to say about fans of the Boston Red Sox. [Getting Blanked]
It can be easy to overlook, but base running is an important aspect of the game even though it’s strange to imagine baseball players practicing it. [McCovey Chronicles]
Shin Soo Choo spent some time in the Korean military this off season. Who else would benefit from army action? [Big League Stew]
Jose Canseco has nightmares over writing his first book. [NY Baseball Digest]
We’re still collecting opinions on the best baseball video game of all time. [Getting Blanked]
Travis Snider and high expectations. [Tao Of Stieb]
Do the Philadelphia Phillies need to bunt? [Crashburn Alley]
For links to all the posts at Getting Blanked, follow the blog on Twitter. [Twitter]
For even more Getting Blanked content, “like” our page on Facebook. [Facebook]
Finally, my favourite thing to come out of yesterday’s leap day. [Inimitable Appurtenances]