Major League Baseball is currently investigating conflicting reports concerning the age of shortstop Aledmys Diaz, a recent Cuban defector who is being scouted by major league teams, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America.
Badler reports that Diaz claims to be 23, but at least two sources have been found reporting his age as 22.
Age verification for players coming from Latin American countries has been a serious problem for Major League Baseball for some time. With the spotty and inconsistent record-keeping of many rural areas, it is often difficult to locate birth certificates or other key documents to verify a player’s age. In several cases, local player-agents, or buscones, have provided false information on player’s ages in order to increase the value of players they represent.
The most famous case of such abuse is that of Roberto Hernandez, who assumed the name Fausto Carmona, shaving three years off of his age. The former Indians pitcher was arrested in his native Dominican Republic for using a false identity and his contract with the Indians was subsequently reduced as a result.
The issue is particularly complicated when dealing with Cuban defectors. The lack of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba means that players typically must establish home residency in another country (Mexico, in Diaz’s case) and then apply for a visa to enter the U.S. Without records from the Cuban government, the only source for information on a player’s age may be his own report.
In this case, the date reported by the player, January 8, 1990 conflicts with reports found in Cuban news outlets stating the date as August 1, 1990. Diaz’s agent believes the date system used in Cuba, which uses the day/month/year system rather than the typical American system of month/day/year.
As small as the discrepancy may be, the date issue has significant consequences for Diaz and any team that may hope to sign him. As Badler explains, under the new CBA rules governing international signings, teams are limited to a signing pool of $2.9M for 2012-2013.
However, a player with at least three years of professional experience in Cub, over the age of 23, is except from these restrictions. For Diaz, this means he can sign much larger contract as teams do not need to worry about that money reducing their power to sign other international players.
Diaz is currently being scouted by major league teams and the early reports are "modest" according to the Baseball America reporter. Scouts do not feel that he can stick at shortstop and his 315/.404/.500 batting line from Cuba may exaggerate his abilities at the plate, thanks to the high offensive environment in the Cuban League.
Diaz is likely to find a home with some major league organization this year once these investigations are finished. At this point, he does not appear to be in line for an eye-popping deal like the four year, $36M deal Yoenis Cespedes received from the Oakland A's or the nine year/$30 the Cubs gave Jorge Soler, but the findings of this investigation will certainly affect the amount of money he makes.