We’ll call this player Kid. Baseball America wrote something about his controversial, multi-million-dollar signing out of the Dominican Republic.
“We liked him,” [one] AL international scouting director said. “We saw him as a corner outfielder, big, long-limbed, real bat potential. He’s definitely a guy a lot of people liked.”
One National League international scouting director compared [Kid’s] body to that of a young Juan Gonzalez. “He might end up being in center field because he’s a plus runner. It’s all going to come down to how big he gets and if he slows down,” the scout said. “He’s going to put on some weight, so whether he retains that speed will tell if he ends up at a corner.”
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[Another] American League international scouting director said that he had [Kid] in for a workout as recently as last month.
“I think it caught everybody by surprise,” he said. “Even his agents were promoting him as a July 2 guy. He really doesn’t follow the July 2 cutoff for this year. I guess . . . we all figured he was eligible this year instead of last year.”
Kid is a Cincinnati prospect named Juan Duran. He signed with the Reds for $2 million in February 2008.
Like Duran, teenager Jairo Beras tantalizes scouts with his power and hit tools.
Like Duran, Beras has been compared by some scouts to a young Juan Gonzalez, according to Baseball America.
Like Duran, the athletic Beras is expected to end up on an outfield corner as he fills out.
But it’s a final similarity that caught my eye as I went back and read the Duran story this morning.
When the Reds dug hard and determined that Duran was, in their interpretation of the rules, eligible to sign earlier than the conventional July 2, 2008 date that many assumed, it fired off some backlash among teams who were sitting on the sidelines in February of that year, waiting for July.
But other clubs knew Duran, by the book, was eligible to sign when he did, and at least one of those other clubs “had Duran in for a workout as recently as” a few weeks before his deal with the Reds.
The Duran loophole had to do with him turning 17 before the end of the regular season of the minor league club to which he was assigned. Beras’s eligibility turns on whether he was born in December 1994 (which would make him eligible to sign now) or December 1995 (which would make him part of the July 2, 2012 class, which will be the first subject to the spending caps imposed by the new CBA). There is evidently conflicting documentation out there as to which birthdate is accurate.
The facts are different in the Beras case (for more details see Ben Badler of BA, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, and Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports), and so is the money (reports exploded yesterday, starting with one from Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes, that Texas had agreed to sign Beras for $4.5 million), but there’s a parallel between the Duran and Beras situations brought to the fore in one note Passan tweeted on Wednesday:
Source who has spoken with Rangers people says team thinks MLB will OK the signing because other teams knew Beras’ revised age.
Other teams knew that Duran could sign when he did. Other teams knew before yesterday, according to Passan, that Beras apparently turned 17 in December.
If this were the Yankees or Red Sox, would the coverage and controversy differ from a situation in which the Pirates or Royals agreed to terms with the player?
It’s going to get more press than Cincinnati’s Duran signing did – it arguably already has – because the Rangers now matter more to the media centers and presumably to other clubs than they used to and than the Reds did four years ago. As a baseball franchise, Texas is now a lot closer to New York and Boston than it is to Pittsburgh and Kansas City.
Maybe if Duran hadn’t already basically washed out as a prospect, his story wouldn’t have retreated into vague memory by now.
But that’s not the point. The fact that the CBA changes make this more than a simple question of when Beras’s career can begin makes this a focus story, and again, “there are multiple sources indicating there is official documentation indicating a date of birth of December 25, 1994, [which] would make the contract [with Texas] valid.”
That note was written last night by Goldstein, who also suggests that “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.”
And, if Passan is correct, even if the Rangers dug hard and determined that Beras was, in fact, eligible to sign sooner than July 2, they weren’t the only club that knew he was 17.
Whether MLB is swayed by the fact that other teams besides Texas did enough homework to conclude Beras was immediately signable (if that’s true), I have no idea. A number of writers who have spoken to officials from clubs other than Texas believe MLB will kill the deal. But perhaps the cloud won’t hover for long, based on a pair of tweets this morning from Tim Brown (Yahoo! Sports):
MLB’s Kim Ng on the Rangers-Beras situation: “We are investigating this issue and hope to have it resolved soon.” No real timetable. MLB investigators routinely consult with hospitals, schools and neighbors to determine ages of DR prospects. This is No. 1 on their list now.
Some number of the 29 clubs who didn’t agree to terms with Beras, of course, are going to push MLB to void the signing. Whether that’s where this is headed, I don’t know, but I know one thing.
I’m glad the team whose aggressiveness is being challenged is the Texas Rangers.