A high-profile Dominican pitcher has received a second suspension and had his contract voided, only this time Major League Baseball hasn’t said why—even to the team that had a deal with him.
MLB suspended righthander Juan Carlos Paniagua, who agreed to terms with the Yankees for a $1.1 million bonus in March, for one year. Yankees vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman confirmed that the league informed the Yankees around a month ago that Paniagua was suspended, but said that MLB did not tell them the reason for the suspension. A source familiar with the case said that Paniagua was in the process of appealing the penalty.
MLB has not responded to several requests for a comment over the past week. Paniagua and his representatives were also unable to be reached for comment.
One-year suspensions are usually reserved for a player who presents false information to teams about his age or his identity. Sitting out a year would be nothing new for Paniagua, who received a one-year suspension in June 2010 for false paperwork. Paniagua agreed to terms with the Diamondbacks while presenting himself as Juan Collado on May 8, 2009 for $17,000. At the time, MLB allowed players with pending contracts to play in the Dominican Summer League, so Paniagua pitched for the DSL Diamondbacks in 2009, racking up a 4.66 ERA in 29 innings with 33 strikeouts and 15 walks in 18 relief appearances.
By the time the 2010 season began, Paniagua’s contract still had not received league approval, so he made three more relief appearances in the DSL, the last of which came on June 7. After that, MLB suspended Paniagua for one year and his contract was voided, though he only ended up having to wait nine months before his suspension ended this year on March 8. An MLB official at the time explained that Paniagua’s suspension “was applied retroactively as the result of an administrative issue.”
As it turned out, MLB’s suspension helped Paniagua score a significant windfall, drawing the frustration of several team officials across the industry. While he was suspended, his name changed from Juan Collado to Juan Carlos Paniagua, but he still used the same April 4, 1990 date of birth that he used to sign with the Diamondbacks. Paniagua touched the low-90s with the Diamondbacks, but during his suspension his fastball was sitting at 93-95 mph and touched the high-90s. The Yankees were also high on his changeup, though scouts from other organizations had reservations about his breaking ball and feel for pitching.
MLB changed the rule that players could participate in the DSL while awaiting contract approval, so Paniagua has never pitched in an official game for the Yankees.
The Yankees are still awaiting word on a more advanced pitcher, 20-year-old Dominican righthander Jose Rafael DePaula, to get his contract approved. DePaula, who has already served a one-year suspension for age and identity fraud, agreed to terms with the Yankees in November 2010 for $500,000.
“He’s working with the Consulate to try to get applied for a visa,” Newman said. “Beyond that, we can’t say anything. That’s between the player and the Consulate.”