Dominican player involved in identity fraud flap, rewarded with 65 times greater signing bonus

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A strange tale from the pages of Baseball America.  The basics:

  • Dominican prospect Juan Carlos Paniagua signs a deal with the Diamondbacks for $17,000. The deal is conditional while a background check takes place;
  • After pitching for the Dbacks developmental team for a spell under the conditional arrangement, the contract is rejected by Major League Baseball and Paniaqua is suspended because of fraudulent paperwork regarding his age and identity;
  • While he’s in paperwork/suspension limbo, Paniaqua fills out and adds 5-6 m.p.h. to his fastball;
  • Because of the voided deal, he becomes a free agent after his paperwork is cleared up, the Yankees sign him for $1.1 million.

Click through and read the story to see how this all came about. From where I’m sitting, the Diamondbacks kind of got boned by virtue of there being no mechanism by which they could retain the rights to a guy they may very well have wanted to keep once the paperwork was sorted out.  After all, it was Major League Baseball — and not the Dbacks — who decided that Paniaqua was a free agent.  And that worked to the Yankees’ benefit. As if they needed the benefit.

A new rule has been proposed to deal with this that gives the club in the Dbacks’ position a right of first refusal if it happens again.  Of course, that won’t help Arizona cope any better if and when Paniaqua becomes a stud for the Yankees.