Two teenage baseball players are suing the Los Angeles Angels in a Dominican Republic court, alleging that the organization reneged on verbal agreements to sign them, a practice that has grown increasingly common amid a landscape with limited regulation by Major League Baseball.
At an Aug. 31 hearing, lawyers continued to argue the cases of Willy Fañas and Keiderson Pavon, who alleged in court filings that they agreed to deals with the Angels -- Fañas for $1.8 million when he was 14 years old and Pavon for $425,000 as a 15-year-old -- but that they were not honored following a change in the organization's front office.
Players from outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico are not officially allowed to sign until they are 16 years old, but those from hotbeds such as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela regularly reach handshake deals with teams when they are as young as 12.
Sources familiar with the verbal agreements confirmed their existence to ESPN, which viewed a video of the moment Angels employees told Pavon they planned to sign him. Instead, less than a month before the Jan. 15, 2021, signing date, Angels employees told Fañas and Pavon they would not offer them formal contracts.
The Angels and MLB declined comment through spokesmen.
Despite the growing prevalence of broken deals -- players, too, have backed out of agreements with teams to reap larger paydays elsewhere -- the cases of Fañas and Pavon are the first known to have multiple hearings in the Dominican justice system, where the law gives greater weight to verbal contracts and their enforceability than the United States, according to lawyers who practice there.