International Man of Mystery

According to multiple reports, the Rangers have signed 16 or 17 year old Dominican outfielder Jairo Beras for $4.5 million. According to Kevin Goldstein, the 6-foot-5, 175-pound Beras is seen by many as the top international prospect in this year’s class, and his signing could represent the finishing touches on the Rangers’ recent reign of domination of the international free agent market.

Unfortunately, it might not stand and Beras could either be sent back in line for a much smaller paycheck this summer or suspended for one year. Why? If Beras is 16, as his recently listed birth date of Dec. 25, 1995 would indicate, he would be ineligible to sign with any team until this July. The Rangers believe he is officially 17, and born on Christmas day in 1994. However, if Beras submitted falsified documents to MLB, his contract will be nullified and he will be suspended for one year.

The signing opened a new can of worms made possible by the new collective bargaining agreement signed by owners and players at the end of last year. The CBA now institutes a comprehensive international spending cap of $2.9 million per team from July 2, 2012, and July 1, 2013, so naturally, there was significant incentive for Beras to change his age to get a lucrative deal done. The new agreement invites shenanigans, and it would be unsurprising if MLB tries to establish a precedent by putting its foot down. In poverty stricken countries like the Dominican Republic, public records can easily be purchased and falsified, and it remains to be seen whether the relatively huge sums of money sloshing around will open the door for increased corruption.

It is possible that Beras previously misrepresented his age to appear younger and more attractive. It’s possible that the confusion was an honest mistake. It is also possible that he just now misrepresenting his age because of the rare circumstance that an older reported age would turn a seven figure profit.

Kevin Goldstein wrote this yesterday:

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.

If this is true, and Beras reported a 1995 birthdate to other teams in the period since the CBA was announced, it is unlikely that he is currently falsifying his records. Why would he tell different teams different stories? Also confusing, why wouldn’t Beras contact every single team to let them know his true age and improve his leverage? And how did he get such a sweet deal if the Rangers were the only team that knew he was 17?

My unqualified guess is that Beras is actually 17, and may have previously fudged the numbers to appear younger. I will have to assume that Beras believed that the entire league knew he was 17, or that the Rangers offer was just too good to be true. A lot of this simply doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Major League Baseball is currently investigating the matter.

Whether Beras stays or goes, the Rangers ability to uncover this potential opportunity further illustrates the proficiency of the front office when it comes to international talent.

If you haven’t purchased Baseball Prospectus 2012, I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve taken to collecting the annuals, and the latest write-up of the Rangers is one of the most refreshing and encouraging pieces I’ve read on the team. The Rangers chapter, titled Exceptionalism Made Easy, summarizes the organization’s success as a byproduct of their superior front office and makes the case for continuous on the field dominance.

Just buy it and read it. It will get your blood flowing. I promise.