There is an interesting article on the agent system for putting Dominican kids in Major League Baseball in The Washington Post. The article focuses on Nationals prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez and his agent (buscone), Basilio Vizcaino. Buscones are agents who find talent before MLB teams can sign them (after their 16th birthday). They groom, feed, and clothe them so that they can make the big leagues. In return, buscones receive a 10-30% share of the signing bonus.
Of course, there are problems with this method, because the agents are in a position where they can do all sorts of things, such as juice players steroids (or worse) and sign contracts that give the agents much more than 30% of the signing bonus. While MLB acknowledges the problems with the system, there is not much it can do. And at least the incentives encourage agents to improve the lives of Dominican’s with baseball talent.
“I hate to say it, I hate to admit it: It really do work in [the players’] favor,” said Jose Rijo, a native of nearby San Cristobal who pitched 14 years in the majors and now serves in the Nationals’ front office. “Now, we got kids 13 years old, 14 years old with talent. [The buscones] feed them, give them some better instruction, give them a chance to develop every day. If you go back to the old system, nobody would discover them, nobody would help them.”
“We do have a concern,” MLB’s Peralta said. “But I have to be honest with you, and I want to state for the record: Buscones, or independent scouts, are a very important part of the industry. They help fill a gap, because there’s not a lot of organized baseball in the Dominican Republic. They provide a service.
I’m not sure what can be done to improve the situation, but I haven’t heard too many complaints from Dominican players in the big leagues. I’m curious to see what happens to this system over time.