Pittsburgh Pirates Face Lawsuit from Former Prospect

The Pittsburgh Pirates are facing a lawsuit from a former prospect named Rudy Guzman, who played three seasons in the Dominican Summer League. He is suing the team for $10 M for “moral, social, psychological, professional, labor and economic damages” according to Diario Libre, who broke the story last week.

The only reason you’re hearing about the story now is because I stumbled upon the link on Wednesday morning while searching for something else Pirates related in Spanish links. As with any ongoing lawsuit, the team obviously isn’t commenting now on the situation.

According to the Diario Libre article, Guzman claims in the lawsuit that he failed to receive his bonus in 2014, which was originally $100,000, then lowered to $70,000. He points out that Rene Gayo originally convinced him to sign rather than join the military, then he convinced him to come back in 2015 after not receiving any payments. There were also other payments over the years that he claimed were not received. Four years of not getting his full payments led to Guzman eventually ending his pro career and hiring lawyers.

Besides the lawsuit, there is more to the story with Guzman. He was a gifted athlete, who unfortunately didn’t have the proper forms of identification to get a visa to come to the United States. That information was lost after a hurricane and subsequent fire destroyed his house years before he signed with the Pirates. Tim Williams talked to him during a trip to the Dominican in 2015 and had an in depth story of Guzman’s situation here.

Before he played any games for the Pirates, I heard reports from the Dominican about how talented he was, getting descriptions of a five-tool player with plus tools. A player I talked to in 2013 said that Guzman was the best player on the team and any other times I asked about him over the next three years, we heard about something impressive he did on the field. That later led to me often starting questions about the DSL team with “Besides Rudy Guzman, who is the best at (insert power/speed/arm/defense questions here)”. In that sense, it’s disappointing that he never got a shot to come to the U.S., because he was apparently a special player.

I can’t comment on the payments and what may have gone on there, but it was clear to me over the years that the Pirates really wanted to get him to the U.S. and see what he could do at a higher level of pro ball. His age always led to concerns of him just doing well in the league because he was much older than the competition, but relying just on that ignores everything that was going on with his life and also the plus tools he displayed on the field. Instead of seeing what he could do in the field, the Pittsburgh Pirates will see in January what his lawyers can do in a courtroom.

  • A lot of knowledgeable folks regarding the International Market are discussing this issue. Let me toss out a question – with 12 Prospects who were paid $15+ mil by the Braves, would this not be a great time to max out our already strong position to try to sign a few or more of these guys?

    • Only if their pitch for Ohtani fails. Obviously a long shot to get him but going after the guy who can step right into a MLB rotation for league minimum for a few years is much better than getting a handful of A ball players.

      Ultimately it makes no sense not to spend their remaining international money but the issue being there’s only the 12 Braves prospects, Ohtani and Juan Pablo Martinez are left to spend the money on in this signing period and about 6 or so other teams still have about a million, in some cases much more than a million, left to spend so there’s still competition albeit much less normal to sign these guys.

      • I can see them dumping a salary in exchange for addtional money in the Bonus pool. Hudson and a low level prospect for a $ Million to be used in the bonus?

      • The Pirates could be competitive in the O Sweepstakes if they play off Pittsburgh as the City of Champions and the popularity of people like Roethlisberger, Lemieux, Crosby, etc. But, if he does not end up in LA for the Dodgers or Angels or in NY for the Yankees, I would be very surprised.

        The Pirates have about $2.8 mil and have done absolutely nothing to improve that amount to possibly $3.8 mil +. Ohtani and 8 or more name prospects are in play – having more money to offer could be very beneficial. Add a SS like Maitan and a Catcher like Gutierrez to that already very talented GCL Group?

  • This is all a mystery to me. It can not be age related that he could not get a visa to come to the US, so why is that mentioned. I guess he is not who he says he is.

    • I don’t think its a matter of not knowing his age or identity but rather that he has no legal documentation to prove either which is a requirement to obtain a visa.

      • Not knowing his identity would prevent him from getting the visa. The birth certificate and passports are used to obtain that.

  • Wilbur Miller
    December 1, 2017 9:04 am

    Sounds like a very dubious lawsuit to me. The standard contract almost certainly puts the legal burden on the player to get himself eligible to play in the US, even if teams do help with the practicalities. It’s also incredibly unlikely that bonuses or salaries got paid thru Gayo.

    • He’s not claiming that bonuses or salaries were paid through Gayo. That’s why he’s suing *the Pirates*.

      He’s claiming he agreed to a certain contract negotiated by Rene Gayo that the Pirates never paid, which is obviously extremely on-brand for Rene Gayo.

      • Sounds like Mother Nature screwed over his chances of playing baseball in America. And now, he wants Pirates to pay for his misfortune.

        Appears American lawyers aren’t the only ones who are prone to a good old fashioned money grab from wealthy companies.

        • Pretty much. I’m skeptical, too, that Guzman was all that hot a prospect. He was over 20 by the time he signed. He did just OK in the DSL at age 21, which was nearly three years older than the league average and older than that relative to the real prospects. The Pirates have had some, very limited success with older pitchers, but a real five-tool position player slipping through to that age is extremely unlikely.

          • He wasn’t an experienced player, but the tools were there. For him to not be good, it would have been a very large group effort from coaches and some players who never even met each other to build him up for no specific reason. I’ll trust the people who saw him.

            I was skeptical at first, which you can see in our 2013 rankings when he was outside of the top ten even though I was told multiple times he was the best player. But then when new people are seeing him and telling me the same exact thing, then it became apparent he was a special player. No one since I started talking to people down there in 2011 has received as much praise for their skills as Guzman.

            • Coaches and players don’t always pay attention to things like age/level.

              • That’s why I left him off the list initially. The point I was making though was that when I asked who the best defensive outfielder was, it was always Guzman. Best arm, Guzman. Best Power, Guzman. Wasn’t always the fastest runner because of players like Victor Fernandez and Lolo Sanchez, but he was a plus runner. There were never any flaws mentioned when talking about him. I trust four years of superlatives over stats, especially with all of the things he went through over the years.

                He’s not a normal case. We are talking about someone who in 2014 would have probably been at a level above the GCL to start and who knows where from then if he continued to play. He wasn’t even playing at all in 2014, so it’s wrong to assume things would have went the same.

                He was the best in 2013 with extremely limited baseball experience, so there was plenty of room for advancement. That 2013 group had a lot of players with tools too and some strong seasons at the plate. That’s really the only time that matters too, because anything after 2013 was time in which he wouldn’t have been in the Dominican.

        • no, it sounds like the pirates didn’t pay him what was owed. The question is- can he prove it?

      • Not at all sure what you’re trying to say. If he didn’t get paid pursuant to his contract, it’s incredibly unlikely that that had anything to do with Gayo, which is the point I’m making. Guzman actually played three years in the DSL, so he had to have a contract with the Pirates that the Pirates were aware of and which was filed with MLB. It’s also incredibly unlikely that the Pirates simply withheld payments under that contract (unless the contract gave them the right to do so), which is why the lawsuit sounds highly dubious to me. If the issue is that he had some sort of surreptitious deal with Gayo in addition to the contract that he signed, then his beef is with Gayo.

        These contracts all have to be approved by MLB and it’s very unlikely the Pirates were operating under anything other than the contract that went to MLB. It all sounds to me like a kid who’s pissed that he was never able to get to the US and whose lawyer knows that Gayo has been shown to be dishonest, so they’re trying to fling enough mud around to squeeze some money out of the Pirates.

        • “…which is why the lawsuit sounds highly dubious to me.”

          And if this is the case then a judge, who actually knows what they’re talking about, is sure to throw it out before it gets to trial.

          • You’d think so, but I’m curious where the suit was filed. I don’t read Spanish.

            • “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.”

              According to the Trib, so yeah, I suppose that adds another wrinkle.

              • Yeah, I wouldn’t know what to expect in a DR court. In the US, typically in a case like this the defendant would try to get it thrown out (that can take quite a while), and if it’s not, a settlement often results.

          • I see a settlement to make it go away, save the legal costs. His attorney is probably paid on a contingency of $ awarded. The team will be paying $300/hr plus.

            • If it’s as simple as you and Wilbur make it sound, there’d be no reason to settle. If the contract says this explicitly then it’ll be quickly thrown out.

              Seems far more likely to me, based on Gayo’s history and the cesspool of international baseball in general, that both the Pirates reneged on agreements and he’s exaggerating the impact in order to seek a payout.

              • Things dont quickly get thrown out. You have to sit for all of the pre trial stuff. Depositions, research, discovery interviews, travel to the DR. With a cas like this, in a foreign country you are looking at better than $100 K pre trial.

        • DrStrangeglove
          December 2, 2017 1:41 am

          “If the issue is that he had some sort of surreptitious deal with Gayo in addition to the contract that he signed, then his beef is with Gayo.”

          I don’t know anything about DR law, but under the law in most if not all US jurisdictions, the Pirates might be liable under principles of vicarious liability for wrongful conduct by Gayo in the course of his employment, if memory serves me well, which it usually doesn’t these days.

      • It is required of him to have the proper documents to be able to come to the US. If he failed to do so, he breached the contract, not the Pirates.

        • Honest question, is this true? Do you have specific familiarity with his contract, or even these *types* of contracts?

          I mean, that certainly sounds like it could be true, but it also sounds terribly simplistic to allow the process to get this far without that coming up, even in the press.

          It also doesn’t exactly sound like it was a secret to the Pirates that he didn’t have official documents, so why did they even sign him in the first place?

          • They knew he was who he said he was.

            He has a brother who has his documentation. Through DNA testing, they can prove that Guzman and his younger brothers are brothers. And they can prove the identity of Guzman’s younger brother. So by process of elimination, they can prove that Guzman is who he says he is, in a roundabout way.

            But you can’t use that method to get a visa and enter the US. You need direct proof (documents). They signed him knowing who he was, and then tried to help him get a visa, knowing the challenges involved in the process.

            His situation was very eye opening during my trip down to the DR. It showed there are some serious challenges to providing that documentation. I think about that kind of stuff now with major hurricanes hitting the area. A friend of mine has a family in Puerto Rico that lost everything they had. Fortunately, they were able to come to the US because there was no question they were who they said they were.

            All it takes is one major hurricane, and the documentation and records to identify a lot of people in the Dominican are gone.

            • Great info, Tim. Thanks for the response.

            • I just want to point out that DNA testing isn’t as sure-thing as most people think. False positives are rather common. There have been criminal cases, for example, in which a DNA test pointed to a suspect, but a separate test of the same evidence showed it was the victim’s (or a dog’s, I don’t remember). That doesn’t mean it’s useless, but the reason the government won’t accept it for visa applications is because it’s an insufficiently reliable form of proof.

          • I do know what it takes to get a visa and the missing documentation is what I was referring to when commenting about not being able to ID him. All contracts have specific items of required performance from all parties. His inability to gain entry to the US would have to be a requirement to the contract, weather directly or indirectly as there would be no value that he can provide if he cant gain entry.

            • “His inability to gain entry to the US would have to be a requirement to the contract, weather directly or indirectly as there would be no value that he can provide if he cant gain entry.”

              Again, I’m asking if you actually know this to be fact, not speculation. That could just as easily be a risk the club accepts when signing said player in a market that very clearly is, well, sketchy as fuck in legal terms. Teams have been burned before, no?

              They did pay him *something* after all, just not the amount he claimed Gayo negotiated with him.

  • I could be wrong but it always seemed like Gayo had so much power and free reign and an ego that grew with it. So many Latin prospects when signed just said “Rene Gayo” in the prospect books and no one else. I had known about Gayo from the Indians and was excited when he came to the Pirates as his reputation preceded him. Could his situation have manifested from just having too much unchecked power in Latin America away from the front office of the Pirates? I know I am looking at this from a much more myopic view than someone closer to the situation but man, it just seems like it probably was time for him to go awhile ago.

    • In all walks of life, man.

      At this point, it takes a special level of naivete to still think Gayo was above it all. I’m sure Dejan will show us.

  • And Gayo’s firing was just a coincidence eh? Methinks some $$$ may have got lost in his pockets.