As reported by Jeff Passan, two prospects, Willy Fañas and Keiderson Pavon, are suing the Los Angeles Angels in the Dominican Republic, alleging that the Angels breached agreements with the prospects by unilaterally terminating the agreements after a change in management. Evidence put forth by the prospects includes a video by an Angels employee of the moment Keiderson Pavon was “signed” by the Angels.
A Common Practice
Major League teams backing out of agreements with international prospects has been common practice throughout the years. In January, Maria Torres and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic provided an in-depth look at the issues plaguing Major League Baseball’s system for signing international athletes.
Specifically, teams may reach agreements with prospects as young as 12 years old, hoping that the prospect will continue to develop and be ready for a minor league contract by the time he is 16—when the prospect is eligible to sign with an MLB team. Reaching an agreement at such a young age effectively shields the prospect from other teams, thereby eliminating the market for the prospect and reducing the prospect’s ability to negotiate at a later time.
Due to the outpouring of support for a change to the system, as a part of the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), both sides agreed to discuss an international draft, setting a deadline of July 25, 2022, to reach a deal. Despite both sides offering proposals, the parties were unable to agree on a framework for an international draft. Although, not all players are in agreement that an international draft will fix the issues with the current system. Either way, the current CBA runs through 2026. Therefore, the addition of an international draft will likely wait until the next CBA.
Trouble For The Angels?
The Dominican Republic’s labor laws are historically pro-employee, which are applicable here due to the alleged signing occurring in the Dominican Republic. Generally, contracts can be verbal agreements. In the employment context, there is a presumption that the contract exists. Thus, the employer must overcome the presumption of the existence of a contract.
Here, the presumption may be difficult for the Angels to overcome due to the video in Keiderson Pavon’s case, which included an Angels employee stating to Pavon, “you are signed.” Thus, there is a presumption that a contract exists that the Angels could not unilaterally terminate.
The prospects’ cases will be tracked by teams and athletes alike due to the potential ramifications if the prospects succeed.
This is not the only issue for the Angels. Currently, owner Arte Moreno is exploring selling the team, which could fetch up to $2 billion dollars. Additionally, the team was embroiled in a dispute with state officials over the sale of Angel Stadium.
Even though the MLBPA is making it a priority to make changes for Minor League Baseball players, including pushing Major League Baseball to name the MLBPA as Minor Leaguers’ collective bargaining representative, expect the MLBPA to continue to put pressure on Major League Baseball to make changes to the international system. However, until Major League Baseball and the MLBPA agree to changes, the issues will persist.