FEB. 24: Lazarito and his family refute the notion that they’re in any danger, Rosenthal writes in a new column. Lazaro Sr. tells Rosenthal that his family is in “absolute control” of its travel documentation and elected not to travel to the U.S. to meet with the Braves because only Lazarito, and not his parents, were invited. (Rosenthal notes that a second source confirmed the accuracy of that statement.)
Lazarito has already hired Octagon as his new representation, though the timing of the entire agency shuffle is rather bizarre, as Lazarito’s family claimed that Hairston’s comments were the impetus for the change in representation, but Hairston was claiming to no longer be representing Lazarito at the time he made his comments. Additionally, securing new representation in a matter of one day seems unlikely. Hairston followed up with Rosenthal and maintained that buscon is driving the thought process of the family in an effort to steer them toward signing with a particular team.
FEB. 23: Agent Charles Hairston and the Culture39 agency will no longer be representing Cuban outfielder Lazaro Armenteros after Hairston tells Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that his life was threatened by a trainer/agent out of the Dominican Republic who also represents Armenteros. At least for the time being, Hairston will no longer be representing the Cuban phenom known as “Lazarito,” and there is now great uncertainty about when or how Armenteros will sign.
Many young players from Latin America are represented by trainers/agents known as “buscones,” who take these players under their wing as children and train, feed and house them in makeshift training camps. In exchange for helping develop the skills of these promising talents, a buscon will then receive roughly 20-25 percent of a player’s future salary if he should go on to sign a pro contract, Hairston explains. The rather unregulated nature of the buscon/player business relationship has led to other issues in the past — for instance, when multiple buscones lay claim to the same player, or when Leonys Martin was sued by a Mexican baseball academy for allegedly not paying the full share of what the academy felt was owed.
This situation with Lazarito’s buscon and Hairston is of an even more chilling nature, with Hairston declining to name the buscon out of concerns for the safety of Culture39 employees. According to Hairston, the buscon withheld travel documents from Lazarito and his parents, making them unable to travel from the Dominican Republic to the United States for a meeting Hairston had arranged with a team’s GM and ownership group.
“I feel for the kid. He is truly special. We are still looking forward to working with him when he comes to the United States once his situation is resolved….But when his safety and ours is put in jeopardy, we had to think about what is most important in life,” Hairston said.
The dispute allegedly centered around the buscon’s desire that Armenteros sign a contract as soon as possible, as opposed to waiting until the new international signing period opens on July 2. (When Hairston last discussed his ex-client’s situation two weeks ago, he noted that their camp was still uncertain as to when Armenteros would sign.) Signing in the current international class or the next would greatly shuffle the list of teams eligible to sign the 16-year-old, as his likely bonus would instantly put a team over its spending pool limit and subject it to a virtual two-year ban on blue chip international prospects. Such teams as the Dodgers, Cubs, Giants and Royals have already exceeded their cap in the current spending period and could add to their bounty by signing Lazarito now, while waiting past July 2 would freeze those teams out (as their penalties would begin) and clear the path for other clubs known to be planning a big splurge in the next international period, such as the Braves, Phillies and Padres. Rosenthal and Morosi list the Dodgers, Padres and Braves as three teams with interest in Armenteros.