SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — Two baseball players in the Dominican Republic have sued the Los Angeles Angels, charging the team breached verbal signing agreements made when they were young teenagers, a lawyer said Friday.
The civil action was filed with Dominican authorities last year but not revealed until now. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 30 in the Civil Chamber of Santo Domingo province.
Attorney Jose Jerez, who represents Willy Fañas and Keiderson Pavon, told The Associated Press the players reached verbal agreements with the Angels in 2018, when they were 14.
“Negotiations were made and values were reached where amounts were agreed,” the lawyer said.
The lawsuit says Angels representatives committed to reaching a formal contract in mid-2020 when the youths would be old enough to sign a deal under Dominican law. This was postponed due to the pandemic to January 2021, but the club did not produce contracts by the new date, it charges.
The lawsuit seeks compensation from the Angels for material and psychological damages caused by the breach of the agreement.
Adam Chodzko, the Angels’ director of communictions, said Friday that the team had no comment on the matter.
Informal agreements between professional clubs and people under age 16 are prohibited in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and other countries in the region, but people in the business say the practice is common.
The Dominican Republic is a big source of foreign players for Major League Baseball, represented by 99 of 975 players on opening day rosters this year, with several times that figure in the minor leagues.
MLB rules allow players who are not residents of the U.S. or Canada to be signed only if they are 17 or will turn 17 before Sept. 1 in the first season covered by the contract.
On July 25, attempts to establish an international draft for young prospects foundered.
MLB has argued that a draft would prevent players from reaching informal deals before they are 16, since a team would not know prior to a draft whether it had a player’s rights. The players’ union said there are no guarantees of this and refused to agree to a draft, maintaining the management offer was part of “baseball’s prioritization of efficiency over fundamental fairness.”