Sports

Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas MLB Club Officials on International Dealings

The FBI has flagged club officials for certain shady transactions pertaining to youth development in Latin America.
September 28, 2018, 3:04pm
Photo by Jeff Kowalsky—EPA

Major League Baseball clubs' long-standing shady presence in Latin America in search of young talent has now come under federal scrutiny. On Friday, according to a report by Yahoo Sports, a federal grand jury issued subpoenas to several club officials and other personnel for various suspicious international transactions. One potentially foreboding detail is that lawyers who specialize in bribery of foreign officials are involved in the investigation as well, according to the report.

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While the full range of parties implicated in the scandal is not yet known, Yahoo's anonymous sources indicated specifically that officials involved in Hector Olivera's $62.5 million signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers were being subpoenaed, along with one unnamed former Atlanta Braves official.

The Braves' international dealings have already drawn the ire of MLB, with former GM John Coppolella earning a lifetime ban for violating the international signing rules last November. And both Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers officials faced penalties for similar violations. Then Texas GM A.J. Preller was suspended for one year for "illicit negotiation with a player."

According to Yahoo's Jeff Passan, while the scope is unclear, it could have a wide-ranging impact; every organization has youth academies in the Dominican Republic, and collectively spend over $100 million-per-year signing international talent. So it's possible more teams could be implicated.

And, as Passan also points out, the issue is more than a matter of legality, these practices can have serious implications on the health of young players—most often from the age of 16 and younger. International recruitment has created a high-pressure push for trainers to give their players competitive advantages, often resulting in rampant abuse of PEDs.

The league has recently made efforts to better police its international dealings, but we'll have to wait to see if it's too little, too late.