Mets Sign Dominican Shortstop Cecilio Aybar

Dominican shortstop Cecilio Aybar, who had previously been declared ineligible to sign by Major League Baseball for using a false age and identity, has signed with the Mets. The contract, signed last month, is for $251,100, emptying out the remainder of the Mets’ 2013-14 international bonus pool.

The deal has not yet been approved by MLB, and Aybar will have to acquire a visa, which could delay his pro debut given his history. Up until 2013, Aybar had been presenting himself as Obispo Aybar, a 16-year-old shortstop born Feb. 26, 1997 and eligible to sign on July 2, 2013.

In April 2013, Aybar confessed to MLB that he had been using his younger brother’s identity in an elaborate fraud scheme, though hardly a unique one. Aybar now presents himself as a 20-year-old born Nov. 23, 1993. Sources told Baseball America that school and hospital records were altered to try to eliminate any record of Cecilio Aybar, while his younger brother had false identifying papers created for him since the older brother was using his identity to try out for teams. After Aybar’s confession, declared Aybar ineligible to sign until April 26, 2014.

Few seemed surprise that Aybar turned out to be older, given his advanced physical tool set, which remains intriguing. At 6 feet, 165 pounds, Aybar is a 70 runner on the 20-80 scale, has a plus arm and is an excellent athlete. The rest of his game remains raw, and even with his more advanced age, his lack of experience is evident in his inconsistent hitting and overall feel for the game, though he’s made progress with his defense over the past year.

Aybar, who trained with Jaime Ozuna, won’t be able to start playing until his contract is approved, even in the Dominican Summer League. While Aybar has a new passport, he needs a visa to play in the United States, a process that could have more hurdles than usual given that Aybar traveled to Florida in October 2012 under a false identity. Given that other players have done the same and been issued a visa, it would seem that process will just be a temporary delay.