On the eve of his much-anticipated professional baseball showcase, Tim Tebow was offered a contract with a venerable winter-ball team in Venezuela, sources told Yahoo Sports, further legitimizing his efforts to transition from NFL quarterback to outfielder.
Aguilas del Zulia, a five-time champion of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League and two-time Caribbean Series winner, sent a contract to Tebow’s representation at CAA on Monday in hopes of securing him for the league filled with major leaguers and on-the-rise prospects. While Tebow expects to map out his future in the coming weeks, one source familiar with his plans told Yahoo Sports he has interest in playing winter ball.
“He’s a great talent,” Aguilas general manager Luis Amaro told Yahoo Sports. “He’s an athlete. He’s won the Heisman. He’s won two national championships. I know baseball is a hard game, but he’ll either adjust and show he’s ready to play pro ball or not. I think it’s low risk, high reward for Zulia.”
Teams’ first look at Tebow the ballplayer will come Tuesday during a showcase in Los Angeles expected to draw scouts from perhaps two-thirds of the teams in Major League Baseball. Tebow, 29, has spent the year preparing to play baseball after nearly a dozen-year layoff. He last played competitively as a junior in high school.
Upon the announcement of Tebow’s pursuit of a baseball career, the independent Schaumburg Boomers offered him a contract – a typical publicity-generating indy-league maneuver. Zulia’s offer comes with more gravitas, and while some in the baseball community are skeptical of Tebow, Amaro sees the chance to bring him on as an opportunity. Venezuelan winter-ball teams are allowed to have nine non-Venezuelans on their roster at any time. Those spots are interchangeable, and roster turnover is heavy.
“In winter ball, we give guys a week to adjust, sometimes less, and if they don’t adjust and we see the league is too competitive for them, we let them go,” said Amaro, the second-year GM of Zulia and brother of former Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro Jr. “If he signs with us and plays with us and is helping our ballclub, we’d love to have him around for the whole winter.”
The level of competition increases as the season goes on. During the initial games in October, the league is made up mostly of minor leaguers. Major league players start filtering in by November and play through December – and with the World Baseball Classic coming up this spring, Amaro expects some of the best Venezuelans to join the league.
Zulia’s offer lends credence to the idea Tebow will sign with a major league team, which will map out his plans heading into the 2017 season. They could be at the team’s spring-training complex. They could be in the Dominican Republic, another competitive winter league. They could be in Venezuela, where players can make upward of $20,000 over the winter and Tebow would be paid, Amaro said, a competitive salary.
“I hope he takes it,” Amaro said. “I think it’d be a lot of fun to watch. I think it would be great for the league to see him in a Zulia uniform.”