The Rangers have generated a strong negative reaction in the international baseball community over a report that they have agreed to a deal with Dominican outfielder Jairo Beras for $4.5 million. And while the Rangers may expect the deal to go through, others think it will ultimately crumble.
Beras had been presenting himself to clubs and to Major League Baseball as a 16-year-old as recently as last month. His Dec. 25, 1995, date of birth would have made him eligible to sign when the 2012 international signing period opens on July 2. Instead, Beras is apparently claiming to be older, according to reports, which would make him free to sign right now.
Beras' deal with the Rangers was first reported in the Dominican Republic but hasn't been confirmed by the team or MLB. The Rangers have failed to add any clarity to the situation, declining to comment. Rafael Perez, MLB's director of Dominican operations, told MLB.com that Beras "presented to us officially" that he was 16, and that now the league's department of investigations is looking into the case.
If Beras is now using a new birthdate, MLB rules and precedent would seem to indicate that MLB will not approve the contract and will not allow him to sign for six months to a year, a typical penalty for any player who misrepresents his age or his identity. Several international sources say they believe that is what will happen and that the deal will end up falling apart. If the league upholds the contract, sources with several teams have said they will be furious.
“They can suspend him for providing false documentation and representing himself as a July 2 player this year, and in doing so providing false documentation for all of MLB’s activities in the Dominican,” said one international scouting director.
Whether a player signs a contract while presenting false documentation may be immaterial. MLB has suspended players—or ruled them "not eligible to sign," in their nomenclature—in the past for misrepresenting their ages and identities before they ever agreed to contracts. One of the most notable examples is Dominican righthander Jose Rafael DePaula, who was suspended in 2009 and is still waiting for his November 2010 contract with the Yankees to be approved.
Teams have said in the past that MLB has granted some players leniency if they willingly came forward with a new age or a new identity. That would not appear to apply in this case, as MLB officials and many teams contacted by BA were still under the impression that Beras was 16 and would not be eligible to sign until July 2. He has presented that information to MLB teams, used it to travel internationally to a tournament in Venezuela in April 2011, and to play in an MLB showcase in February made up exclusively of players who will become eligible to sign on July 2.
The Rangers were apparently aware of Beras’ revised age, though how they acquired that knowledge remains a mystery. What is clear is that there would be a strong financial incentive to get the deal done now rather than in July. The $4.5 million bonus would benefit Beras and his representatives, because the Rangers can pay him a bonus unfettered by the spending restraints of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. And by signing Beras now, the Rangers still would have their full $2.9 million spending budget available once the new international spending rules kick in on July 2.
If MLB approves the Beras deal, scouts and trainers in the Dominican say they would expect more players to suddenly age to get around the rules.
“It’s going to invite a lot of ideas,” said another international director, “of people trying to create documents to say they’re older so they could sign.”
Even a six-month suspension would mean that Beras would not be eligible to sign until August, which would put him back under the new $2.9 million bonus limit provided for in the new international signing rules. While there are legitimate issues with the administration and warehousing of identifying documents in the Dominican Republic, many Dominican trainers want players who use false paperwork to serve suspensions to help foster a more equal, level playing field for all young players in Latin America.