Report: Federal grand jury investigating MLB’s international player development system

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo has a bombshell this morning: a federal grand jury is looking into Major League Baseball teams’ dealings with international players. It is issued subpoenas to club officials. FBI agents and DOJ lawyers who deal with Foreign Corrupt Practices Act cases are involved.

Passan notes that, at present, the investigation is centering on the signing of former player Hector Olivera who was scouted by the Braves, signed by the Dodgers and was later traded to the Braves before leaving the league in disgrace due to a domestic violence conviction. Passan reports that at least one former Atlanta Braves official is cooperating. It’s worth noting that former Braves general manager John Coppolella was fired and banned from baseball after violating international signing rules last year, though it is not clear if he is the one cooperating or if the investigation involves anything he did at all.

Passan also notes, quite correctly, that baseball’s activity in Latin America is so extensive and its conduct so often tied up in matters that are controversial — be it because of the misdeeds of its own people or the misdeeds of agents and others in Latin America — that the scope of this investigation could easily be tremendous and could have profound implications for the league, the union and Latin American players past, current and future. Drugs. Money. All of which surround pitched competition for, quite literally, the talents of children. The possibilities for exploitation and illegality — a lot of which has long been known to be part of the process — are virtually endless.

This could be the biggest story to hit baseball in some time.