Is Venezuela Unsafe for Winter Ball?


News has come out that Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped outside his home in Valencia, Venezuela this afternoon. It is fairly safe to assume that money is the motive, though no ransom demands have been reported as of yet.  Venezuela has a history of for-profit kidnappings, including the kidnappings of Yorvit Torrealba‘s son and Ugueth Urbina’s mother.  This is, however, the first case that I am aware of involving the kidnapping of a major leaguer himself.

Like any wealthy individual in Venezuela or certain other countries in Latin America with similar problems, Ramos would have had a target on his back.  That said, the 24-year-old Ramos just completed his first season as a starter and has yet to qualify for arbitration much less free agency.  According to John Paul Morosi, Valencia is home to other big-leaguers such as Felix Hernandez who would represent bigger targets.  To me, this might suggest that criminals will simply abduct whoever might seem to be an easier target regardless of that individual’s ability to pay.  Or it could simply be the case that the deep pockets of the Washington Nationals were the lure, as opposed to the much shallower pockets of Ramos himself.  This seems all the more likely given the fact that the player himself was kidnapped rather than those close to him, since it could be more difficult for family members to access Ramos’ own funds in order to pay a ransom.

This is something that should concern the Tigers a great deal:

the Tigers have a number of Venezuelan and non-Venezuelan prospects currently competing (or potentially competing) in the VWL – any of whom could potentially represent a similar opportunity to criminal groups.  Players on the road are going to have predictable schedules and movements and spend a lot of time in unfamiliar surroundings.  Ramos was on a VWL roster but had not appeared in a game (like Fu-Te Ni and Joel Zumaya).  In addition, the Tigers have a number of Venezuelan players on the major league roster and within the organization who will spend at least a significant portion of the offseason there.  While other teams have focused more heavily on scouting and player development in the Dominican, the Tigers have made big investments in Venezuela.  I don’t have any simple recommendations, but I am concerned.