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July 15, 2011 at 1:30 PM

Update on Mariners shortstop prospect in Dominican Republic: M’s say his bonus money is protected in escrow account

Earlier this week, Baseball America linked to a disturbing story in the Dominican Republic about the street agent — known in the Dominican as a buscon — of a top Mariners teenage prospect. That buscon, Enrique Soto, one of the Dominican’s most famous, is being accused of sexually assualting three former players at his baseball academy.
The M’s agreed to terms with top shortstop Esteilon Peguero late last year for a $2.9 million bonus, then lowered it to a reported $1.1 million after discovering a pre-existing medical condition in his arm.
But the latest news, which I linked to in this blog, is that buscon Soto was accused of the assaults, jailed in January and released on bond last month. Also last month, one of the three accusers wound up stabbed to death in Bani, where Soto lives and runs his baseball academy. No arrests have been made in that case.
Where the M’s and Peguero again come into it is that Soto claims the sexual assault allegations were made up. He says they were concocted and encouraged by the father of the M’s shortstop prospect, angry because he could not gain access to his son’s bonus money. The father is separated from Peguero’s mother and apparently knows the family of two of the assualt accusers.
Baseball America wrote that sources were saying Peguero had yet to receive his money. Given the history of abuse by buscones who have kept part of and even all of their prospects’ bonus money, this was concerning.
But there is a reason, I’m told, that Peguero has not gotten any money.
That’s because, according to M’s vice-president (communications) Randy Adamack, the Mariners followed recently-imposed MLB protocols in the Dominican and deposited the bonus money into an escrow account. That money will be held in trust for Peguero until he turns 18 in November.
So, that’s the reason he hasn’t gotten his money yet. Because the rules are being followed.


As of last night, Peguero was riding a seven-game hitting streak for the entry level Class A Peoria Mariners in Arizona.
He’s got a .260 batting average and .715 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in his first 17 games. So, he is playing within the M’s organization as if he’s been “paid” his bonus, even though he won’t gain access to the money until he’s an adult.
Protecting minors from being exploited by buscones isn’t the only concern in the Dominican. With poverty running rampant in that country and top prospects using baseball as a means of survival, it’s not unheard of for families to come looking to take any money they can get their hands on from their teenagers. Some even groom their kids as prospects and make deals with buscones for a cut of any bonus money they later get from MLB teams off the top.
MLB has taken steps to protect players from this type of stuff.
Not saying this is the dynamic in Peguero’s case.
All we know is that, for now, Peguero’s money is protected.
In one notorious case several years ago, former major league star Raul Mondesi had to quit the Pittsburgh Pirates mid-season and return to the Dominican after his personal property and assets were seized in a legal dispute with his buscon.
That buscon — former major leaguer Mario Guerrero (an uncle of Mariners’ Dominican point-man Patrick Guerrero and the brother of legendary talent-finder Epy Guerrero) — claimed that Mondesi as a 15-year-old promised him a percentage of all his future earnings. Naturally, when Mondesi scored millions in subsequent contracts, Guerrero tried to hold Mondesi to the verbal promise he’d made as a child. A Dominican court actually sided with Guerrero initially and Mondesi had to go back home and sort the whole thing out once assets began to be seized by court order.
What I’m saying is, this might all sound nuts to us living here. But this is a way of baseball life in the Dominican. The buscones are an unregulated lot, but they groom, house, feed and sometimes drug-up baseball prospects from a young age so they can sell them off to big league teams. And their payback comes from the bonus money. Not all of the buscones are crooks. They are, after all, training and housing many of these prospects and believe they should be paid for their services as businessmen. The trick is to find that fine line between paying them an honest dollar and allowing them to grab as much of the pot as they can.
MLB has tried to police the system at times. But it’s taking place in a foreign country not subject to U.S. law and there are limits as to what can be done. Many critics say MLB can be doing a whole lot more to protect young teenagers from exploitation.
But in this case, it appears the Mariners followed the rules and that prospect Peguero will get his money in a few months. It will then be up to him to decide how to share it with people.
One other note. The accuser who was murdered last month also has the last name of Peguero, but is not related to the Seattle prospect. Nor are they related to Mariners outfielder Carlos Peguero.

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