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March 1, 2012

Future Shock

The Curious Case of Jairo Beras

by Kevin Goldstein

The news broke this morning, and the firestorm didn't take very long to follow. When it was first reported that the Rangers had signed Dominican outfielder Jairo Beras to a $4.5 million contract, the first reaction was confusion; he was generally seen as one of the top prospects, if not the top prospect for the upcoming international signing period that begins on July 2. Teams were not shocked as much as confused about how the deal could be consummated in February.

As first reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the signing is already being investigated by Major League Baseball. Passan writes, “The Rangers believe he is 17 and eligible to sign while MLB and competing executives insist he's 16 and ineligible until July 2.” After double-digit conversations with scouts and executives, that might not exactly be the case, but nonetheless, the deal is still a troubling one.

Here are the primary points that are causing confusion:

1. Beras participated in the biggest international showcase of the year held in early February in the Dominican Republic, featuring top prospects from both the Dominican and Venezuela. While teams were told by Major League Baseball that all participating players had cleared identification and date of birth investigations as well as drug testing, the roster sheet distributed at the game indicated that birth dates had not been confirmed.

2. Multiple teams say that Beras had conducted private workouts for them at their respective complexes in the Dominican Republic in the months leading up to the contract. All of those teams claim that at the time of the workouts, Beras claimed a birth date of December 25, 1995 and that he would not be eligible to sign until the July 2 signing date. One team contacted for this piece stated that the Beras camp continually delayed or deferred multiple requests to provide documentation concerning his identification.

3. By submitting a contract to Major League Baseball, the Rangers are saying he is 17 years old and therefore eligible to sign, and there are multiple sources indicating there is official documentation indicating a date of birth of December 25, 1994. That would make the contract valid. Unfortunately, we also get into the reality of the Dominican Republic, which is in many ways a third-world country with third-world record keeping. It is common practice there for birth certificates to be bought, sold, and falsified. Beras's background is one of extreme poverty—even for his home country—as multiple sources also indicated that Beras's birth was not registered with the government until he was approximately one year old. This is actually quite common in the Dominican Republic, where many home births are never officially accounted for.

Questions That Remain

1. Did Beras ever submit paperwork to Major League Baseball? According to Passan's article, Major League Baseball is in possession of a birth certificate that states the 1995 date of birth. Still, his inability or unwillingness to provide documentation to teams is troubling, and he was not required to submit paperwork to Major League Baseball for the purpose of July 2 eligibility until March 1, which is oddly just one day after the signing was announced.

2. If Beras is truly 17, why would he claim to be 16? While the answer might seem obvious, in this year's market, it's far more complicated. If Beras was eligible to sign before the new CBA rules went into effect, he would be in line for a far bigger bonus than if he was July 2 eligible, and his $4.5 million deal well exceeds the $2.9 million international spending cap that will go into effect with the July 2 signing period. So why even claim to be 16? Why not live in what has been a very expensive final year of free-market economics, as opposed to passing yourself off as a market-limited player? It's possible that he simply did not know how old he was; again, this might seem nonsensical, but it does happen in the Dominican Republic. It's also possible that once he was discovered to be 17, the Rangers made a take-it-or-leave-it offer—and a genuinely good one—to avoid a bidding war. Such offers are also common, and if the Rangers found out he was 17, the onus is not on them to share that information, either with other teams or with Major League baseball. An article written about Beras in a Nicaraguan newspaper calls the player 17 years old in November of last year, which has left one international scouting director wondering if 1994 is even the correct year of birth.

3. What happens from here? No matter how the limited facts in this case are interpreted at this point, nearly every interpretation ends with what would be referred to legally as deception. If the player presented himself to be 16 years old—and such a birth certificate submitted to Major League Baseball would be the smoking gun—then the player has misrepresented his age. If Major League Baseball agrees, then his contract with Texas would be voided, and the player would likely be suspended from signing for a period of one year.

As with everything in international signings, there are potential loopholes, as the official rules state that a player cannot misrepresent his age when signing with a club. Under the strictest of definitions, if Beras is truly 17, he did not lie about his age upon signing, but the rule is to be interpreted by Major League Baseball, which must already be horribly embarrassed by the entire situation. Beras was the big name in this year's international class, and Beras was the player everybody wanted to watch in this showcase for a league that MLB itself has funded and is very proud of.

Unfortunately, the Dominican Republic has seen corruption at multiple levels in the past, from buscones to scouts to the major league baseball investigators themselves. Nothing about this deal looks good for baseball, and nothing about this deal looks like it will stick for the Rangers or the player, and in the end, the person who will pay the steepest price is probably Jairo Beras, who deserves and can afford it least.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

41 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

jwschaefer

Is there an appeal process or binding arbitration available to the players if they disagree with MLBs initial ruling?

Feb 29, 2012 16:56 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

There is not. If MLB rules the contract is not value, the Rangers really have no recourse.

Feb 29, 2012 19:12 PM
 
Behemoth

Shyam Das will happily arbitrate if required.

Mar 01, 2012 02:50 AM
rating: -1
 
JD Sussman

Does the player have recourse?

Mar 02, 2012 09:59 AM
rating: 0
 
johnsamo

I can lie about my age to my fiance, but I can't lie on the marriage certificate.

The KEY MOMENT is what the situation was WHEN he signed the contract with the Rangers. If he was 16 when he signed, the contract is void. If he was 17, it'll be hard to legally backup negating the contract.

In previous instances where he had to present a birth certificate, there was probably no penalty to lying about it, both because of the wording of the document might have designated no penalty for lying, and the fact that he was a minor and thus not liable.

Sounds to me like the kid wanted to be a Ranger, or wwhile other teams were napping, the Rangers did their due diligence, and found out the kid was either mistaken or lying about his dob, and made a last minute offer.

Feb 29, 2012 18:39 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

You make a lot of assumptions here, and I don't know where to begin. The biggest holes is your assumptions about previous instances. MLB sources say they have a birth certificate that says 12/25/95. There is a penalty for that. Also, never assume the kid wanted to be a Rangers or a Yankee or a Red Sox or an Astro or anything. The kid wants the best deal.

Feb 29, 2012 19:11 PM
 
APer930

well, let's not get crazy, I mean, even for a good deal who would want to be an Astro?

Mar 01, 2012 12:19 PM
rating: 7
 
SaberTJ

If you were a 17 year kid born in poverty would you be picky about whom signed you when his first paycheck is more than what people in his country make in a year?

Mar 02, 2012 07:54 AM
rating: -1
 
Dave Holgado

Isn't a likely explanation for this that Beras originally claimed to be born in 1995 instead of 1994 for the same reason that any player who has ever lied about their age (except Adrian Beltre) does -- younger is better; but that when the new CBA was agreed to and the international spending cap was reported publicly, it became apparent to him that he would gain more financially by telling the truth? Perhaps I'm missing something, or I've got the timeline on this wrong, but I think that's it.

I also think the MLB rule you cite won't come into play here. No matter how embarrassing it may be, there is no way it could be argued that Beras misrepresented his age to Texas at the time of his signing. Proof that Texas was told his correct age lies in the fact that they signed him now, instead of after July 2, right?

Finally, agree wholeheartedly that he was after the best deal. There's no reason to think that he didn't tell *each* of his serious suitors his real age once it became in his interest to do so. That he didn't announce it publicly, or inform MLB directly, suggests that he realized there might still be reason to keep mum on the subject. Namely, if it appeared from his negotiations with Texas and any other serious suitors that he was not going to receive a deal of more than $2.9 million anyway, then why admit to the lie?

Feb 29, 2012 20:07 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I think this year's situation adds a uniqueness to the situation to the point where the past doesn't necessarily come into play.

I don't think the rule I cited will come into player either, but it's out there, and I wanted to share. I could have written 3,000 words on this, but there are plenty of aspects that I have heard, and in many cases believe, but I do not have enough confirmation or sources to responsibly report.

Feb 29, 2012 21:57 PM
 
Dave Holgado

Ahhh... the plot thickens. So maybe he's really 16? Whatever other unconfirmed rumors you've heard, I applaud you for your editorial discretion, or journalistic integrity, or whatever they're calling that these days.

Mar 01, 2012 05:34 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Just going off what I know, I'd me more surprised at this point if he was 16 than not, but I don't think that's going to enter into any decision. I think it's going to completely come down to the paperwork submitted to MLB.

Mar 01, 2012 09:34 AM
 
johnsamo

The bits of inforation leaking out make it seems like the Rangers knew something no other team knew. Can you confirm this is true or not? Knowing whether that is true is really crucial to the story.

What are the penalties for filing a false birth certificate in his situation, i.e. attending some baseball prospect event? IF the MLB noted to the scouts that they hadn't confirmed the birth dates, that implies it wasn't that big a deal to the MLB at that time.

I suspect that prior to this J2 deadline, the MLB has no designated penalties regarding false dobs until a player actually signs. The J2 deaadline changed that obviously, but you can't grandfather the rules of a new agreement prior to the deadline. Tht is what deadlines are for.

Feb 29, 2012 20:40 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

There are people who believe the Rangers knew something others did not.

To believe it implies it 'wasn't a big deal' is not true. Players submitted paperwork to play in the event, but these investigations take a long time, and there was no way they could be completed before the event. MLB absolutely cares at every moment about a player's true identity, and this situation shows why.

Your suspect is also wrong. While I stated that rule, it's hardly the only time false identities are mentioned in the rules. If he submitted a false birth certificate, the situation is trouble.

Feb 29, 2012 22:00 PM
 
SC

Presumably at some point, he will need to apply for a work visa in the United States. Falsifying those documents is a felony, as Leo Nunez/Juan Oviedo found out, and can mess up your ability to get a visa in addition to the potential penalties MLB might impose.

I'd think that the Rangers believe there is sufficient documentation about his age to support the immigration documents he'll need, and if the U.S. State Department accepts a birth certificate with a 1994 (or earlier) date on it, presumably MLB would as well.

Mar 01, 2012 10:54 AM
rating: 1
 
Aaron Moreno
(314)

Pretty crazy. It would seem odd for a 16 year old to not wait a few more months for potentially more money, as well as not dinging his prospect status by being older than previously claimed. Maybe Beras doesn't know what's going on at all, and the buscones are playing around.

The only reason any of us know our age is because people tell us how old we are, or official records tell us how old we are. Mess with that, and who knows?

Feb 29, 2012 20:43 PM
rating: -2
 
Behemoth

If he's 16, he isn't eligible to sign until the summer. That means he would fall under the new CBA, which has a maximum pot of $2.9 million per team. He's been offered a contract of $4.5 million just now - there is a clear incentive for him to be 17.

Mar 01, 2012 02:55 AM
rating: 3
 
cdgarosi

I assume this is another arrow in the quiver of those folks pushing for an international draft. Would an international draft solve (or improve) this problem? Is it that the dollars discussed would be lower so the incentive to 'cheat' the system would be lower?

Feb 29, 2012 21:43 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I just want to make a general comment so I don't come off as too cranky. There are a lot of assumptions in the comments, and most of them are wrong. However, when I read them, I take responsibility for that. It's funny, when I'm doing all of these calls and talking to people about this situation, we're speaking a certain language and there is a lot of shorthand and a lot of assumed understanding. It's my responsibility to bring the reader up to speed with us, and I hope to do that better for you in future pieces about this situation.

Feb 29, 2012 22:02 PM
 
MichavdB

And this comment shows why I think you're one of the best sports writers on the planet!

Mar 01, 2012 09:06 AM
rating: 3
 
Behemoth

The only comment that I have would be that the Rangers presumably feel they have a non-zero chance of getting this pushed through, or they wouldn't risk the backlash that they must have known was coming their way over this.

Mar 01, 2012 02:53 AM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I totally agree with this statement.

Mar 01, 2012 09:35 AM
 
yadenr

Along these lines- are there any repercussions for the Rangers? Would they face any penalty, potentially? If not, it seems like a great move on their part to jump at even the chance that this would work out.

Mar 03, 2012 12:01 PM
rating: 0
 
jwschaefer

Any idea what somebody like Beras would get under the new CBA?

Would a team give its entire allotment to one player?

Just seems like lying only really has downside for the player. Even if the Rangers were 90% sure the document they received was false, why not make the deal and just see what happens.

Mar 01, 2012 02:55 AM
rating: 1
 
timber

I can sure envision a team giving its entire $2.9 million to one player, especially if he's the top prospect in that year's pool.

Mar 01, 2012 08:21 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I can as well, but for now, just like the new draft spending caps, it could take a few years to figure out the best practices under these new restrictions.

Mar 01, 2012 09:36 AM
 
Behemoth

I would have thought that you'd certainly get close enough to the $2.9 million that it wouldn't matter really. I guess the teams might like to keep $100K or so just to throw around at a few lottery ticket guys, if they could. It may lead to guys like Beras actually choosing teams for non-financial reasons - if 5 or 6 teams offer $2.75-$2.9 million, then the player may be better going with a team where he might be more comfortable culturally, or that has a better reputation for developing young talent.

Mar 01, 2012 15:37 PM
rating: 0
 
Behemoth

I'd imagine that there are a number of cases that it's actually impossible to be certain how old a player is, given the apparent standard of record keeping in the Dominican Republic.

Mar 01, 2012 03:02 AM
rating: 1
 
timber

I hope this isn't one of those incorrect assumptions commenters are making...but this comes off to me as a breach of protocol as severe as the one committed by the Orioles with Seong-Min Kim, and it reflects poorly on the Rangers.

Mar 01, 2012 08:34 AM
rating: 0
 
Behemoth

The difference is that the Orioles upset the KBO. MLB values good relations with the other professional baseball leagues. The Rangers have taken a chance that this contract will be approved - they may have upset MLB, but I guess that it's relatively small potatoes in terms of things teams do which upset Bud. He's probably more bothered about the suggested bonus than the guy's age.

Mar 01, 2012 08:38 AM
rating: 1
 
cfinberg

LOL - I bet you're correct about Bud.

Mar 01, 2012 11:01 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Yeah, a breach of protocol is different that falsified paperwork. One of the things that fascinates me about this story is the fact that is really is quite unique in many ways.

Mar 01, 2012 09:37 AM
 
eighteen

In trying to divine Beras' motivations, wouldn't it be helpful to know who his agent is? Or doesn't he have one?

Mar 01, 2012 10:41 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Like most DR players he has a buscone, Carlos Guzman.

Mar 01, 2012 10:44 AM
 
Behemoth

Kevin, how clued up would an average buscone be on how much of an issue this would be likely to cause? I'm also curious as to how often a buscone might know/strongly suspect that a player had age/identity issues.

Mar 01, 2012 15:39 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Buscones are many, many things. What they are not is stupid. Guzman is a major player in the DR and knows the entire system inside and out.

Mar 01, 2012 15:43 PM
 
Behemoth

This confuses me even more now. From what you are saying, Guzman would have realised exactly how controversial this would be. I'm confused as to why he would have advised Beras to handle things in this way - it would seem to me that he must believe that there is a decent chance that this can be pushed through as well.

Mar 01, 2012 16:10 PM
rating: 0
 
jfranco77

Isn't it Boras-like in a lot of ways? If Scott saw a loophole and thought there was a chance he would certainly try to drive a truck through it.

Mar 01, 2012 20:22 PM
rating: 1
 
gtgator

To me, there's little doubt the contract will be upheld - because there are at least $1.6MM reasons why.

If MLB rejects the contract, Beras has an easy way to prove his damages. All he has to show is that MLB mis-applied its own rule. And looking at the language, it is clear he did not misrepresent his age when he signed.

As for "misrepresenting" his age before? If your parents/guardian/buscone gave you a birth certificate showing you to be born in 1995, are you going to question it? How many of you remember the day you were born? In fact, without our record-keeping society, no one would truly know the day they were born - just what they were told. Plus, he has an easy defense for the new 1994 DOB - when he was documenting the 1995 date for the March 1 deadline, that's when he found that the 1995 date was wrong.

So, unless you think he forged the 1995 birth certificate himself, then all he has to say is that this was the document he was given and he had no reason to doubt it until recently.

So if you can't prove he knowingly deceived MLB and if he didn't misrepresent his age the day he signed, then any lawyer worth half his salt will have a field day in court (especially in Texas) representing a 17 y.o. minor against a billion dollar business that just cost his client $1.6+MM.

In the end, this is a one-time deal due to the change in bonus structure in the CBA for international signees. MLB will let this walk rather than risk a lawsuit just as they declared the 4 draftees free agents years ago when teams didn't tend offers as required.

Mar 02, 2012 02:23 AM
rating: 0
 
MaineSkin

OK, what is this guys skill-set? I'm assuming his skills are worth Texas throwing 5M at a teenager not caring if he is 16 or 17?

Mar 02, 2012 11:16 AM
rating: 0
 
cooper7d7

Is there a scouting report available on this kid?

Mar 04, 2012 18:56 PM
rating: 0
 
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