Mariners Reduce Peguero’s Bonus To $1.1 Million

Dominican shortstop Esteilon Peguero, who signed with the Mariners for $2.9 million in December, has had his bonus reduced to $1.1 million, according to international sources.

Peguero, 17, originally signed with the Mariners on Dec. 7 for what would have been the largest bonus for an international amateur free agent in 2010. However, his contract was re-worked with a lower signing bonus and an official signing date of Dec. 26.

Mariners vice president Bob Engle, who directs Seattle’s international program, acknowledged yesterday that Peguero’s new contract has been approved by MLB but declined to elaborate further. Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik also declined to comment on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear why Peguero’s bonus was reduced. International scouting directors from other clubs said they believed there was a problem with Peguero’s shoulder, however a source close to Peguero denied any injury and said Peguero had passed his physical with Seattle. Peguero’s date of birth is still listed as Nov. 3, 1993.

Peguero, one of the most advanced hitters in Latin America last year, would not be the first high-profile prospect to have his bonus reduced for unconfirmed reasons, although never to this magnitude. In 2006, the Yankees signed Venezuelan catcher Jesus Montero for $2 million in July 2006, only to have it later reduced to $1.65 million with an official signing date of Oct. 17, 2006. At the time, Yankees vice president Mark Newman would only say that “there is no age issue” with Montero.

In 2009, Dominican outfielder Wagner Mateo agreed to terms with the Cardinals for a $3.1 million bonus on July 2, but the Cardinals voided the contract when he did not pass his physical due to problems with his eyesight. Mateo signed with the Diamondbacks in May for $512,500.

With Peguero’s new deal, Venezuelan righthander Adonys Cardona’s $2.8 million bonus with the Blue Jays is now the largest of any international amateur signing in 2010. Outfielder Ariel Ovando, who signed with the Astros for $2.6 million on July 7, was the top-paid Dominican. Peguero’s new bonus ties him for the seventh-highest bonus of the year among international prospects who became eligible to sign in 2010. His initial $2.9 million bonus would have been a franchise record for an international amateur prospect, a mark now held by Dominican outfielder Phillips Castillo, who signed for $2.2 million on July 13.