After a lengthy delay, Cubs righthander Juan Carlos Paniagua has received his visa and is in Arizona.
Paniagua signed with the Cubs for $1.5 million last year in July, received his visa, had his contract approved and pitched briefly in the United States at the end of the 2012 season. However, visa issues prevented him from being able to enter the U.S. this year, limiting him to four starts in the Dominican Summer League and essentially wiping out half a season of development time.
The visa issues for the 23-year-old Paniagua are not completely surprising given the extensive questions MLB has raised about his background. He originally signed with the Diamondbacks out of the Dominican Republic for $17,000 in May 2009 as Juan Carlos Collado and pitched for their DSL team, but MLB terminated his deal for fraudulent paperwork and declared him ineligible to sign for one year.
His fastball velocity spiked during that time, which helped him land a $1.1 million deal with the Yankees in 2011 while using the same date of birth (April 4, 1990) but now with the surname Paniagua instead of Collado. MLB terminated that contract as well for what the league termed “falsified documents” and declared him ineligible to sign for another year.
When he became eligible to sign last year in July, his bonus went up again as he landed a $1.5 million deal from the Cubs using the same name and same date of birth he used to sign with the Yankees. MLB ruled that Paniagua’s age was undetermined, which allowed the Cubs to decide whether they wanted to proceed with the contract. Paniagua entered the season as Chicago’s No. 11 prospect.