At this point, we all know that the Padres have hired AJ Preller as the 10th general manager in franchise history. He’s regarded as one of the best in the business at international scouting, which simultaneously finds him revered and disliked in the industry. News also came out yesterday regarding a supposed suspension in Preller’s past. There’s only one incident reported on in the past that even remotely resembles a suspension for Preller…and given quotes from Fowler and Preller, I’m pretty sure this is the incident in question. (PM edit: It’s probably not.)
In February of 2012, the Texas Rangers reached an agreement with Dominican teenager Jairo Beras on a contract which included a $4.5 M signing bonus (According to Ben Badler, the second-highest ever for an international amateur who wasn’t a Cuban defector). The trouble here is that 2012 was the first year of new rules regarding international signing bonuses, which were limited to $2.9M (bonus money allocation has subsequently been determined based on the prior year’s record). Beras had been presented as a 16-year-old, was on record with MLB as a 16-year-old, but Texas Rangers investigators dug into his information and found that he was actually 17. As a 16-year-old, Beras would have to be signed when the window opened on July 2 (and, as such, fallen under the new bonus cap). As a 17-year-old, the Rangers could sign him immediately (and outside of the new bonus cap). And they did. With the previous age on record, and Beras considered perhaps the top target on the market for the July 2 window, other teams cried foul.
The resulting investigation found that Beras was older than 16 (not specifically saying he was 17 at the time, but his official birth date is listed today as 12/25/1994…so, yeah. 17.), and that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the Rangers. They were allowed to sign the player, but he was suspended until July 1, 2013. Where the idea of a suspension comes in is that the Rangers were barred from participating in the July 2 window while the investigation was going on. The following quote is from the Badler piece linked above.
“We were not able to participate in the July 2 market,” Preller said. “OK, we got the player, we were able to spend (our $2.9 million). Every other team was able to sign their top talent on the international market, but at the time, we were not able to do that.”
Today, A.J. Preller was quoted on MLB Network Radio as saying in response to the suspension reports: “I’m proud of the International Operations group the Rangers have over there. Ultimately, MLB felt there were no violations.” This is why I believe the Beras situation is the suspension being (vaguely) reported by Buster Olney and others.
I also found reference to a Jason Parks article at Texas Farm Review, which outlined the situation. Through the magic of the Internet Archive, it’s still available online. It was published as a free article, so I will post a few quotes along with the link (here! Right here!) In summary, Parks seemed to feel the Beras situation was exacerbated by previous gripes from other (big, influential) clubs with how Preller and the Rangers conducted business.
Here’s the basic truth (as I see it) about the Beras situation that a lot of people don’t want to come out and say: The Rangers were punished thru the process of the investigation for multiple reasons, but mostly due to past indiscretions in the Latin American market, and for the fact that powerful teams in the league took offense to the Rangers approach to signing Beras. The teams in question used their weight and influence within the MLB office to keep the heat on the Rangers, with a desired outcome of having the signing disapproved, the player punished for providing false age documentation to MLB officials, and the team publicly humiliated for past and present events.
The past indiscretions I speak of might have happen, or they might not have happened, and I’m not in a position to comment with any authority on the validity of the claims. Director of Player Personnel AJ Preller is often the leading man in these industry whispers, and he’s been under the microscope for several years in the market for behavior that some teams have taken vocal offense to. (And trust me, when I say vocal, I mean a full choir in a big room with fantastic acoustics.) From the Ynoa signing by the A’s, to the Guillermo Pimentel signing by the Mariners, to Profar, to Leonys Martin, to Mazara, to Beras, the Rangers are the dirty word on the page labeled Latin American process, and it has created an ugly cloud around the organization, giving them the label of unscrupulous giants in a region stacked to the ceiling with unscrupulous dealings.
Despite the fingers pointing at the team suggesting they hid Pimentel in their complex, or that they bought Profar’s family a house before the J2 window, or that they purposely deceived the market in order to sign Beras as a 17-year-old, the fact that stands above all others is that the Rangers have been the most successful organization in he market in recent years, and success have a tendency to breed covetous longing and scorn. In a strange way, the Rangers have become the Yankees of the market, the team that always finds a way to land the top player, whether that comes on the back of intelligent due diligence or back-room shadiness. Within the industry, the Rangers are a feared and revered organization; they are clearly the models for the sustainable success, but their process on the journey to this success has some shaking their heads and puffing out their chests. The most popular kids in school are also the most hated. Nature of the beast.
There’s much more at that link, but I don’t feel comfortable sponging any more than that (despite the fact the piece is technically no longer online), so you’ll have to click the link to read further. Which you should. I reached out to Parks on Twitter to ask about the “suspension” news, and have yet to receive a response. If I do, I’ll add it to this post.
So what we have is potential shady business in a world of shady business, of which MLB eventually found no actual wrongdoing on the part of Preller and staff. If there’s another “suspension” out there, I’m sure we’ll eventually learn the details of it. As of now, given the information out there, I believe this is it.
PM EDIT: Ken Rosenthal just posted a piece that touches on the suspension in question. The facts are vague, but it seems the incident in question is actually something other than what I outlined here.
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