Santa Case Puzzles


Last week – in a couple of lines – we heard the news that the Tigers had released last year’s top international signee Adelyn Santa. This week The Detroit News explains – again in a couple of lines – the reasons. Adelyn Santa has been trying unsuccessfully to get a visa to come play ball in the USA for over a year. Apparently he asked for his release as a direct result. What!?

I find this puzzling to say the least. With no more information given, how can it be anything else? We don’t even know if the Tigers recouped any of that $750,000 investment on a player that never played. Baseball America confirmed that his contract was approved by MLB and that he was not ‘suspended’ due to background checks or drug use. If he had, it would impact his ‘signability’ by other teams under the new CBA – but it hasn’t. That doesn’t guarantee that this debacle is unrelated to falsified information or drug use, but we certainly haven’t gotten any real signals it was.

So we’re left to wonder why he couldn’t get a visa and why he wanted out of the deal as a result. Did he, in a sense, give up on the Tigers and hope another organization could be of more assistance in the visa process? Did he, in effect, exercise an opt-out in hopes of getting a bigger contract now (since, having already signed an ‘approved’ contract, teams that signed him now wouldn’t have to count it against their international signing cap)? Both of those sound plausible to me. Were he and his people irritated by delays on the Tigers side in paying him that bonus? It could be the case that – for a variety of reasons – the long delay in the visa process gave him and his advisers a chance to re-evaluate whether the Tigers were actually the organization that they wanted to be a part of. Miguel Cabrera and Nick Castellanos blocking him at 3rd could have entered into the equation. Or maybe it wasn’t really his idea to be released after all, but something was uncovered in the visa background check process that nobody wants to mention publicly.

Obviously whatever the reason, the end result is bad for the Tigers. The Tigers have a farm system light on top-tier positional talent and haven’t shown much interest in signing the upper tier of international youngsters (though they have gone for quantity). Adelyn Santa wasn’t one of the top 10 or 20 international prospects signed last year – but he was the top guy signed by Detroit. Think of this like the unexpected retirement of a guy like Austin Wood, which takes what would have been potentially a mid-level prospect out of the Tigers system with no compensation. When these things happen, you have to imagine that the Tigers could have done something differently and could have prevented or avoided this. But they didn’t. And we’re still left wondering why.