Major League Baseball will investigate the Texas Rangers' signing of Dominican prospect Jairo Beras for $4.5 million after questions about his age arose. The Rangers believe he is 17 and eligible to sign while MLB and competing executives insist he's 16 and ineligible until July 2, sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The Rangers agreed to the second-highest bonus ever for a Latin American teenager with Beras, a 6-foot-5, 175-pound outfielder who starred during MLB's showcase in the Dominican Republic less than a month ago. The players who participated in the camp were expected to be the first signed under new guidelines, which restrict the amount of money teams can spend on international free agents.
While the Rangers declined comment Wednesday, a source who had spoken with the team said the Rangers believe they signed Beras legally and expect MLB to validate the contract.
Others around baseball are not so sure. A livid official contacted MLB about the deal, wondering how a player could age one year within one month.
"The birth certificate he provided said he was 16," an MLB source said.
[Related: Jairo Beras was a showcase standout]
The Beras case is another troublesome hurdle for baseball, which in recent years has tried to clean up the rampant age and identity problems in the D.R. Juan Carlos Oviedo (previously known as Leo Nunez) and Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona) remain in the Dominican Republic after their fake identities were discovered this offseason. If Beras is found to have submitted false information to MLB – at the showcase, a program listed his birth date as Dec. 25, 1995 – the league could suspend him for a year and nullify the contract.
Players have lied about their ages and names to convince teams they are younger, as clubs value projectability and room to grow over polish and maturity. The Beras case, then, is an anomaly: a player actually claiming he's older than he once was thought to be.
The preference is understandable: Baseball's new collective-bargaining agreement will limit all 30 teams to a $2.9 million international-spending cap between July 2, 2012, and July 1, 2013. In coming years, international bonus money will be determined by record, with the best teams getting the least money. MLB will allow teams to trade a portion of their international cap.
In anticipation of new rules, the Rangers doled out a record $5 million for outfielder Nomar Mazara and $3.5 million for outfielder Ronald Guzman last July. Asked about the restrictions in an online chat Tuesday with the Dallas Morning News, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said: "It seems to limit teams in those areas, and if it plays out that way, I won't be a huge fan. Just think clubs should have the freedom/flexibility to make individual decisions in the best interests of their franchise – and we're all in different situations."
MLB's Department of Investigations will start the inquiry into Beras' age immediately, a league source said.
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