Pirates notebook: Team faces $10 million lawsuit regarding alleged breach of contract
A former player in the Dominican Republic has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Pirates for breach of contract.
According to Diario Libre, a newspaper in the Dominican Republic which first reported the story, Rudy (Mejía) Guzmán claims he sustained “moral, social, psychological, professional, labor and economic damages” from his dealings with the Pirates and their former Latin America scouting director Rene Gayo.
The suit was filed in October and will be heard in January 2018 by the Civil and Commercial Chamber of the Court of First Instance in Santo Domingo, D.R.
“We do not comment on pending litigation,” Pirates spokesperson Brian Warecki said. “The club adheres to the contracts that we sign and we will vigorously (oppose) any litigation.”
Diario Libre reports that in 2013 Gayo persuaded Guzman, who was then 21 years old, to leave the Dominican military and sign with the Pirates. Guzman said he agreed to a signing bonus of $100,000 that later was reduced to $70,000.
An outfielder, Guzmán trained at the Pirates' academy in El Toro, D.R., and played in a total of 107 games for the Pirates' team in the Dominican Summer League in 2013, '15 and '16. He did not play in '14, according to Diario Libre, because the Pirates were slow to pay his signing bonus.
In the fall of 2013, the Pirates tried to bring Guzman to their complex in Bradenton, Fla., for Instructional League. However, Guzman was denied entry to the United States because his identity could not be verified.
According to a report by PiratesProspects.com, Guzman claimed records that could validate his identity before age 15 were destroyed by a hurricane.
Identity and age-verification issues are not uncommon with Dominican players. MLB cleared Guzman to play for the Pirates, but the U.S. State Department never approved him for a work visa.
With an international signing, signing bonuses are contingent on the player's ability to secure a visa.
Before the 2014 season, Guzman was listed on the roster of rookie-level Bristol. He never played for the team.
The Pirates fired Gayo on Nov. 15 after MLB revealed he was investigated for taking kickbacks from a league in Mexico. MLB has not yet announced any penalty for Gayo.
General manager Neal Huntington told 93.7 The Fan the Pirates “are going to do everything in our power” to lure Japanese standout Shohei Ohtani.
Earlier this week, Huntington told the Tribune-Review the Pirates had completed the questionnaire Ohtani's agent sent to every MLB team.
“It might be the first time all 30 clubs make an effort to sign the same player,” Huntington said.