It seemed like a simple enough story when the Yankees agreed to terms on a $1.1MM deal with Dominican right-hander Juan Paniagua, who had served a one-year suspension for identity fraud, on March 10 (as first reported by Ben Badler of Baseball America). Earlier this week, though, Badler wrote about the unintended consequences of a since-changed rule, as well as the Diamondbacks' reaction to losing out on the now highly touted prospect.
Today, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic has more on Paniagua's original, voided deal, and the righty's future prospects.
Ultimately, it was the Diamondbacks' decision to void Paniagua's $17K deal, because neither they nor Major League Baseball could verify the player's identity. This after Paniagua — then going by the name Juan Collado — had played for Arizona's Dominican Summer League team in parts of two seasons under an old rule. It allowed international free agents to play for their would-be teams while their contracts awaited approval from the commissioner's office.
Now, Paniagua's new deal with the Yankees is still awaiting approval, and under the new rules, he may not play for the Yankees organization until a decision is rendered. It bears watching whether the new deal will be approved, because, according to Piecoro, that is not a given:
There still is a lot of skepticism about whether he’ll actually get off the island and into the U.S. The fact that he changed his name, but not his birthday, is a red flag.
We’ll see if he actually gets to the states to play in the minors and if he actually gets the $1.1 million.
Paniagua has apparently maintained all along that his birthday is April 4, 1990, even when he was going by the Collado surname.
Nevertheless, Piecoro writes that a situation like Paniagua's — in which the player benefits financially — is extremely rare; the great majority of international free agents whose contracts are voided for fraud end up losing money in the long run. So, although Arizona lost out on what looks like a promising player, this doesn't seem to be a very common happening.
This was addressed a bit on the Baseball America podcast on international signings either this week or last week some time. The other big example they gave was Carlos Matias/Carlos Martinez. I can’t even remember which name he is using now. He signed with the Red Sox for around $150k, got suspended, and ended up with $1.5 million from the Cardinals after the Red Sox helped transform him from a guy who could barely reach 90 to a guy who would hit 99.
Ben Badler also mentioned at one point that the Pirates signed a guy named Yunior Montero in 2009 for $45k, he got suspended, then signed with the Pirates again for about 4x that much. During his time in their system the first time around he went from throwing in the mid-80s to the mid-90s.
Badler said teams seem pretty upset about this and are working to make changes.
why would he change his identity only to keep the same birthday and age?