MLB's somewhat unstructured and often shady process of procuring amateur talent in Latin America and the Caribbean has long been a fertile source of controversy. Recent and semi-recent events like Yasiel Puig's and against the Braves have pushed the issue into mainstream consciousness.
Speaking of all that, Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim has a scoop that figures to reverberate around the game in the coming weeks and months:
Sports Illustrated has learned that the U.S. Department of Justice has begun a sweeping probe into possible corruption tied to the recruitment of international players, centered on potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. What's more, SI has learned that multiple alleged victims of smuggling and human trafficking operations have already given evidence to law enforcement agents or testified before a federal grand jury.
Unlike, say, U.S.- and Canadian-born amateurs, players from, for example, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela aren't at this time subject to a draft. That means it's in essence an open competition for their services. MLB not long ago put strict limits on international signing bonuses, but the aim of that was to reduce labor costs for team owners, not to stem corruption. That the recruitment process is so central to having a presence in Latin American and environs and that the handlers of young players there have so much influence opens the door to all manner of corruption and back-channel dealings that put money in the hands of those other than the players themselves.
Now, it seems, the federal government has taken notice, and the potential implications are surely far-reaching. As Wertheim reports, the Dodgers "figure most prominently in the dossier." The Dodgers have allegedly gone as far as grading the behavior of some of their employees in the region, with the most serious designation indicating possible criminal activity. To be sure, the Dodgers are surely not alone in such alleged unsavory practices.
Be sure to give Wertheim's piece a full read. It contains many details of what the probe has turned up and names a current MLB manager who may be of interest to investigators. Suffice it to say, this won't be the last we hear of it.