July 16, 2009

A top New York Yankees prospect is not who he claims to be, sources tell SI.com. Two weeks ago, the Yankees signed a shortstop purporting to be 16-year-old Damian Arredondo from the Dominican Republic to an $850,000 bonus. Now Major League Baseball's Department of Investigations has determined that Arredondo is not the player's real name and that he is older than 16.

The Yankees signed the player they thought was Arredondo on July 2, the first day that major league teams are permitted to sign international free agents as young as 16. The Yankees were impressed with the switch-hitter's strong arm and speed -- he reportedly ran a 60-yard-dash in 6.4 seconds.

According to a new Major League Baseball rule, a player found to have used a fraudulent identity or to have misrepresented his age cannot sign with another club for one year. Major League Baseball has recently increased its efforts to deter identity fraud in Latin America by hiring new investigators and dispatching other investigators from its New York City office to oversee the process.

In general, sources say that MLB will be working with authorities in the Dominican Republic to bring criminal charges against the orchestrators of fraud -- often the trainers and agents who stand to make large percentages of the prospects' signing bonuses.

Mark Newman, the Yankees Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, says that he has not received official notification of the outcome of the Arredondo investigation. The Yankees did not lose any money on the prospect because his bonus was contingent on the outcome of the investigation. Newman expressed gratitude that the investigative process was swift, allowing the team time to continue searching for prospects among the pool of free agents who have not yet been signed.

The Yankees also signed Dominican catcher Gary Sanchez on July 2 for $3 million. According to his agent, Brian Mejia, Sanchez has already passed multiple investigations.

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