Major league baseball is being investigated by a federal grand jury over its practices in regards to the signing of international free agents, according to Jeff Passan. Passan says club officials have been subpoenaed, with the signing of Hector Olivera — a Cuban player who was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers — being one area of interest.
We have discussed before that signing Latin American players is generally seen as a shady, corrupt business, similar to college football recruiting, as teams attempt to bend the rules as far as possible, or sometimes simply break them in the belief that, since everyone is doing it, there’s little risk of punishment. We have seen some changes of late — as Passan notes, the Atlanta Braves were severely punished last year for violations, the Boston Red Sox got hit earlier in the decade, and A.J. Preller was suspended in 2010 when he was still with the Texas Rangers for “illicit negotiation with a player.”
“Cleaning up” the international free agent market in Latin America has been a topic of discussion with MLB for some time, and was reportedly one of the motivating factors behind the push for an international draft, since there’s no point in cutting a handshake deal before a player is eligible to sign if there’s no guarantee you will be able to actually draft him. If this investigation ends up resulting in indictments and convictions, that would likely be an impetus for MLB to make wholesale changes in the way it is doing business there.