Rosario Signing Raises Red Flag

By Ed Price
May 8, 2004

ESPN has uncovered alleged improprieties surrounding the signing of righthander Adriano Rosario, one of the Diamondbacks’ top prospects. But it’s uncertain that the team will face any penalty.

Arizona signed Rosario out of the Dominican Republic on June 13, 2002. They paid $100,000 to Ivan Noboa—a “buscone,” or independent developer of talent in the Dominican—and gave Rosario a $400,000 bonus. At the time, Major League Baseball rules permitted clubs to make direct payments to buscones, with 20 percent ($100,000 of the $500,000 total) a typical fee. The rule since has been changed.

According to those familiar with the issue, Rosario paid Noboa a fee of 25 percent, $100,000 of the $400,000 he received. Rosario, who has a mid-90s fastball and is pitching at Double-A El Paso, claims that Noboa didn’t disclose the $100,000 he already had been paid by the Diamondbacks, and thus came away with $200,000 (or 40 percent of the $500,000 total).

Furthermore, a baseball source says the Dodgers offered $750,000 to sign Rosario without any of the money going directly to Noboa. It’s unclear as to whether Noboa informed Rosario of that offer. Had he taken 25 percent of a $750,000 bonus, Noboa would have made $187,500—$12,500 less than he got from the deal with Arizona.

Noboa is the brother of Junior Noboa, the Diamondbacks’ director of Latin American operations. Junior Noboa, who’s well known and widely respected in the Dominican Republic, has been a valuable member of Arizona’s front office since 1996. He helped the club sign and develop players such as Vicente Padilla, Jose Valverde and outfield prospect Luis Terrero.

Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. strongly denied that the Diamondbacks, including Junior Noboa, had any knowledge of Ivan Noboa’s actions.

“I have the utmost confidence and trust in Junior,” Garagiola said. “I do not believe we did anything wrong.”

Though Rosario’s signing isn’t currently the subject of an MLB investigation, MLB executive vice president for baseball operations Sandy Alderson told “Outside the Lines” that he was troubled by the situation. Alderson also noted that MLB hasn’t been asked to look into that matter.

That could change, as it’s conceivable that action could be taken by agent Scott Boras.

“I am talking with Joe about the matter,” said Boras, who began representing Rosario this year. “It’s something we’re going to attempt to resolve in the next week.”

The Diamondbacks are conducting an internal investigation.

Ivan Noboa told ESPN.com he informed Rosario of the additional $100,000 payment when he advised him to accept Arizona’s offer.

“Of course,” Noboa said. “All these negotiations take place with knowledge of that.”

Ivan Noboa hasn’t commented about the offer made by the Dodgers. According to ESPN.com, a Dodgers official said Ivan asked for a side payment but the club preferred to include extra money in Rosario’s signing bonus and let the player and his representative work it out.

Jeff Schugel, then Los Angeles’ special assistant for international scouting, told ESPN.com that on the day the Dodgers expected to sign Rosario, they received a call from Noboa saying the pitcher decided to go with the Diamondbacks and wouldn’t consider a counteroffer. Schugel said the Dodgers were so angered that they banned Noboa from their Dominican academy.

When the Dodgers were found in 1999 to have violated MLB rules by signing infielder Adrian Beltre (another Boras client) before he turned 16, they wound up negotiating a three-year, $5 million contract with Beltre to prevent him from filing an appeal that may have resulted in him being declared a free agent. The team was also fined $50,000 and banned from signing any Dominican players for one year.

Because there’s no ongoing MLB investigation, a similar scenario seems unlikely at this time. However, Boras is known to go to great lengths for his clients.

“It’s possible, based on what we learn through this broadcast, that we will take a look at this situation,” Alderson told “Outside the Lines.” “But again, while we are concerned about particular cases, we are also as concerned—or more concerned—about creating the appropriate structure and environment in the Dominican Republic where these cases are minimized.”

Before this season, Baseball America rated Rosario the No. 5 prospect in the Arizona organization. A nonroster invitee to big league camp this spring, he has gone 2-3, 6.17 in six starts with El Paso.

Ed Price covers the Diamondbacks for the East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.).

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