It’s been two years since Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a single-car crash in his native Dominican Republic.
It’s also been two years since his estate has received a single penny of the $20.25 million still remaining on his guaranteed contract with the Royals.
According to the Kansas City Star’s Sam McDowell and Vahe Gregorian, the mother of Ventura’s 5-year-old daughter has hired attorneys in order to pursue the money still left on the five-year contract Ventura signed before the 2015 season. The contract would have expired following the 2019 season.
It’s also reported that Ventura’s young daughter is listed as the sole heir of his estate, and the estate is now completely broke.
The haggling over the money almost certainly stems from the unprecedented nature of the circumstances.
As The Star report notes, this is believed to be the first scenario in which an MLB player with a multi-year guaranteed contract died with multiple years remaining on the contract.
It’s reported that a grievance has been filed, and that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are currently negotiating a potential settlement. A timeline for a possible resolution was not given as all aspects of the case are being kept confidential. As such, there has been no comment on the matter from MLB or the Royals.
Worth noting, the fact that the Royals haven’t paid off Ventura’s contract doesn’t necessarily reflect malice on their behalf. As Royals Review notes, the scale of the case changes the dynamics significantly.
It is important to remember that this involves millions of dollars, numerous attorneys, and insurance companies. Even if the Royals wanted to just give Ventura’s estate millions of dollars as a goodwill gesture, MLB attorneys may try to prevent them as a matter of precedent. For what it’s worth, [Royals GM Dayton] Moore says he has stayed in contact with the Ventura family and that the Glass family has been supportive.
Perhaps the biggest determining factor will be Ventura’s toxicology report.
Guaranteed MLB contracts often include exceptions that relate to player conduct. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal previously reported that Ventura’s deal included a provision that would nullify payment for failure to perform due to injury or death resulting from driving a motorized vehicle while intoxicated.
The results of the toxicology report would give some insight into where the negotiations might stand, but those results were never made public.
In 2017, MLB paid the Miami Marlins $700,000 after pitcher Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident. That money was allocated into a trust for Fernandez’s daughter.
While there’s a significant difference in the money owed (Fernandez earned $2.8 million in 2016, but didn’t have a contract for 2017), that case is still notable because MLB went against an established policy. MLB usually pays teams $1 million for a player’s death. Fernandez’s number was revised due to the presence of drugs and alcohol in Fernandez’s blood at the time of his death.
It shows that MLB would likely fight for a similar restructuring of the money Kansas City owes Ventura’s estate if the same circumstances were applied to Ventura’s case.
The Kansas City Star report also dives deeper into the financial issues Ventura was facing before his death, and the financial burdens his estate is now facing. While court documents show that Ventura’s daughter received a $12.6 million life insurance payout after her father’s death, that money is being held in a protected trust and is not part of his estate.
It’s an unfortunate situation that hopefully will be resolved soon and will lead to quicker resolutions when similar unfortunate events happen in the future.
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