CHICAGO—David Wilder, a John Schuerholz disciple who has long been on the short list of future general managers, was fired by the White Sox in connection with an ongoing federal investigation into the handling of money associated with signings in the Dominican Republic.
In a statement on May 16, the White Sox announced they had dismissed Wilder, scout Victor Mateo and part-time scout Domingo Toribio after a two-month inquiry by Major League Baseball's new department of investigations. MLB's investigators shared information with federal investigators, who have their own investigation under way.
Wilder, a close friend of general manager Ken Williams, had been with the White Sox since 2003, serving in a variety of roles. His most recent title was senior director of player personnel.
His biggest contribution to the organization was the free-agent signing of Jermaine Dye after 2004. Wilder, who had originally signed Dye as a 17th-round pick for Atlanta, persuaded Williams to take a chance on the veteran outfielder, whose production had been limited by injuries. That proved wise. Dye was named MVP of the 2005 World Series and has been an integral part of the Sox for four seasons.
An international scout for another major league team told the Chicago Tribune that the commissioner's office was interviewing the parents of several Latin players about the bonuses they received from major league teams. Investigators believe some scouts were either keeping a portion of the bonuses as a finder's fee, or misleading their organizations about the size of bonuses and keeping the difference for themselves.
Williams and other White Sox officials have declined to discuss the situation.
"On a professional level and personal level, this hurts," Williams told reporters covering the team during a series in San Francisco. "But you will never see me—even though there were obviously some things that have drawn us to this day—you're not going to hear me say a disparaging word about any of the people who are involved in this, simply because we're going to maintain a level of professionalism."
An MLB investigator confirmed to the Chicago Tribune on Saturday that the probe involved skimming bonus money, and that it currently is limited to the White Sox.
"There are probably others who have done it and there may be others who do it, but we don't view it as widespread or organized in any way," the investigator said.
Wilder has not commented about the situation.
Wilder, a former Cal State Fullerton player, began his front office career with the Athletics in 1990. He spent five years with the Braves, was an assistant general manager with the Cubs and worked in scouting and player development for the Brewers before joining the White Sox after the 2003 season. Wilder had interviewed for GM positions with Boston, Seattle, Baltimore and Arizona.
After serving as the White Sox's farm director for three seasons, he was promoted to senior director of player personnel in 2007. He contributed to the Sox's signing of Cuban defector Alexei Ramirez last winter and had been assigned to help breathe life into the club's unproductive efforts to identify and sign players from Latin America.
Denny Gonzalez, who ran the White Sox's Dominican academy, left the organization after the 2007 season. Mateo was in only his second year with the organization; Toribio, his first.
The White Sox have lagged behind in Latin America over the last two decades but found a gem in Dominican righthander Fautino de los Santos, who was traded to the Athletics in the Nick Swisher deal, and gave 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Juan Silverio a $600,000 bonus last year.
Wilder and Mateo were credited with that signing. Wilder also assisted with the signing of Venezuelan outfielder Jose Martinez in 2006.