Former White Sox executive David Wilder, two scouts charged with bonus skimming

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In May 2008, the White Sox fired senior director of player personnel David Wilder and scouts Jorge L. Oquendo Rivera and  Victor Mateo  after allegations surfaced that they had pocketed money earmarked for player signing bonuses.  They’ve now been charged with crimes:

Wilder, 50, was charged with seven counts of mail fraud. He was considered a rising star in baseball’s front-office circles and was a close friend and a trusted adviser to White Sox general manager Ken Williams . . . Also charged were Jorge L. Oquendo Rivera, the Sox’s Latin American scout from 2004 to 2007, and Victor Mateo, who was the club’s scout in the Dominican Republic from 2006 to 2008.

The indictment alleged that the three illegally defrauded 23 baseball prospects out of the $400,000 from December 2004 to February 2008.

An interesting note related to this back when it broke: Oquendo worked for Jim Bowden when he was the Reds’ GM.  Bowden, you may remember, was also being looked at in connection with the overall investigation into signing bonuses in the Dominican Republic. To my knowledge he was never accused of wrongdoing, and he isn’t mentioned in this report. Bowden’s trusted ally Jose Rijo was fired after some age-related scandals involving Dominican players. I’d be curious to know if either Bowden or Rijo are mentioned in the charging documents.

Beyond that: when this stuff hit the fan back in 2008, it led to a lot of articles talking about the state of player development in the Dominican Republic, the dangers of Buscones and all of that.  I think there is still a lot of messiness involved in that whole process, but it’s probably worth acknowledging that though unsavory Buscones may be exploiting prospects, Major League Baseball employees are now officially charged with exploiting them themselves.  My guess: no one’s hands are truly clean.

Such a dynamic is worth remembering when Bud Selig starts talking about the need for an international draft to “clean up” Dominican baseball.  Because in some ways, MLB is just as much a part of the problem.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.