Handful of MLB Teams Including Twins Duped by International Prospects Lying About Age

Photo - Brace Hemmelgarn - Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins are one of the more active teams in the international prospect free agent market most years, especially in Latin America. So far during the 2024 international signing period, they’ve signed two top prospects out of the Dominican Republic, (SS) Daiber De Los Santos and (OF) Eduardo Beltre.

Read More: Minnesota Twins Sign Top-10 International Prospect, Daiber De Los Santos

But according to a breaking report out of The Athletic, the Twins have been recently duped regarding the age of at least one prospect that they had a hand-shake deal with or had gotten far down the negotiating line with.

Minnesota Twins duped regarding age of international prospect

Many teams recently learned a player they were either interested in, or had reached a verbal agreement with, was older than previously believed, according to people briefed on specifics who were not authorized to speak publicly. Those teams included the Houston AstrosKansas City RoyalsMinnesota TwinsNew York Mets, and Oakland A’s, all of whom declined to comment.

Some of those players were eligible to be signed in the present signing period, others in the future. Several were big names in the amateur circuit, expected to draw seven-figure bonuses. The Athletic is not naming the players because many of them were minors at the time of the agreements.

The Athletic

This report goes far beyond a few teams being duped by random prospects who fell through the cracks of the international scouting agencies that monitor a prospect’s age. It accuses multiple teams of participating in international scouting practices that are questionable, at the least, and possibly criminal, in some cases (keep reading).

Twins recently fired longtime Latin America scouting director

It doesn’t name any of the international prospects that were able to fool teams into believing they were younger nor did it dive into any individual stories related to anything that happened to the Twins. It is important to remember, however, that the Twins just fired their director of international scouting in Latin America a couple of months ago.

Related: Minnesota Twins Will Not Trade Polanco, Farmer or Kepler for Prospects

Fred Guerrero had been working the Dominican for the Minnesota Twins since 2004, and landed them players like Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano. He is one of the most well-known scouts in Latin America. After he was ousted by the Twins, which was reported to be a cost-saving move at the time, Guerrero got a job with the Kansas City Royals a month or two later.

MLB scouting in Latin America is a disaster

The point of this journalistic investigation is to expose the shady things taking place in Latin American scouting right now. And it’s not just the prospects and their handlers who are trying to scam the system. It strongly suggests that teams and their scouts are in on it too.

It says that scouts and team executives communicate with Dominican handlers known as “buscones” through secretive messaging services like ‘WhatsApp’, to arrange and communicate handshake deals with international prospects who are far younger than the 16-year-old minimum set by Major League Baseball.

“Everyone knows everything. There’s tons of WhatsApp groups where agreements (and cancellations) get broadcasted,” one team executive added by text, echoing many others.

The Athletic

MLB Scouts stealing money from international prospects?

But it gets way worse than that. The Athletic’s findings involve international scouts (contracted by MLB teams) who are skimming payments from their teams to these Latin American players. Some of these kids signing under-the-table deals are under the age of 13.

Multiple club executives expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of MLB’s investigators. Suspicion of bribes or skimming at various stages of the international signing process — be it scouts receiving signing-bonus money from players, or scouts directing players to buscones, or league investigators looking the other way — are rampant in the sport.

“We now have teams doing handshake deals with players who will be eligible to sign in January 2027 and 2028 —  these kids are 12-13 f—ing years old, and their agents are shaking hands on $4 million-plus agreements,” said one international scout. “It’s fair to assume that creates additional pressure on agents to make younger and younger kids appear more and more advanced over their classmates.”

The Athletic

Related: Rocco Baldelli Would Bet on Twins Making a Significant Move Before Spring Training

After reading The Athletic’s report, which does not make any mention of Twins former director of Latin American scouting, Fred Guerrero, you have to wonder if there was more to his dismissal than what was made public in November. The timing of his firing, along with the mention of Minnesota in this article, are awfully curious.

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