Victor Baez, a trainer who worked with players in the Dominican Republic, was arrested by Dominican police on Tuesday and charged with fraud and falsifying identifying documents.
A statement from Dominican police did not specify the players for whom Baez was allegedly providing forged papers. Major League Baseball spokesman Patrick Courtney told the New York Daily News that a Dominican player came forward to MLB investigators with information that Baez had given him documents with a false age and identity, which MLB passed along to Dominican authorities.
Baez, described by industry sources as one of the more vocal trainers in the Dominican Republic, was in the news last June, when he admitted that four of his players tested positive for Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid commonly known as Winstrol. Baez at the time denied giving his players steroids, suggesting that a contaminated protein powder caused the positive test result.
Baez’s two most prominent prospects who signed last year were outfielder Edwin Moreno, who signed with the Padres for $500,000, and third baseman Hector Veloz, who signed with the Orioles for $300,000. While Moreno and Veloz tested positive for stanozolol, sources with knowledge of the signings said that both players passed investigations into their ages and identities, and have already been paid their bonuses. Other prominent players with Baez in recent years include lefthanders Edgar Ferreira and Kilby Pena, both of whom signed with the Astros last year for low six-figure bonuses.
The news of Baez’s arrest was not a surprise to everyone in the industry. At least one Latin American scouting director this summer predicted that MLB or the Dominican government would try to hold players and their families legally accountable for age fraud. Beginning this summer, all Latin American players’ contracts included “Addendum H,” a notarized document that players had to sign saying that his identifying papers were accurate.
International scouts interviewed for this story were mixed on whether jail time was a necessary step for the Dominican government to take, but there was a sense of encouragement among team officials that the Dominican government was willing to take action against trainers, who are unregulated by MLB.
“Unless there’s penalties for it, people are going to keep doing it,” one Latin American scouting director said. “This is an eye-awakening thing. This is good. If they’re putting people in jail, that’s a big deterrent.”
Age manipulation, steroid use and bonus kickbacks have long been prevalent problems in Latin America, with the stakes getting higher in recent years as bonuses have escalated.
“If they’re going to arrest a guy for changing papers,” an international scouting director said, “they’re going to have to arrest half the country. That’s been going on for years.”
The statement from Dominican police said that Baez’s arrest is one step of a police initiative to investigate and arrest people who provide fraudulent documents to players trying to sign with MLB teams.
“These guys think they’re in the Dominican Republic so they can do certain things, but these people are worried right now,” one agent said. “People who are doing the right thing have nothing to worry about, but the way that people are talking (in the Dominican Republic) is they’re using the national Dominican police to start making these guys talk.”