Dairon Blanco of the Kansas City Royals will play for the Estrellas Orientales in the Dominican Republic this winter. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network
The Leones de Ponce, a team in Puerto Rico’s Liga Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, had Kansas City Royals outfielder Darion Blanco, 30, and former Orioles first base prospect JC Escarra, 28, under contract and on their reserve list for this upcoming season this winter – until they didn’t.
Dominican teams in LIDOM contacted Blanco and Escarra to try and take them from Leones de Ponce. Blanco was contacted by the Estrellas Orientales and Escarra was contacted by the Aguilas Cibaenas.
The Leones de Ponce accused the Dominican teams of making improper approaches to the players, since Blanco and Escarra already had contracts with Leones de Ponce, Francybel Bretón of record.com.DO, a Dominican baseball website, reported in late September.
Now, the dispute, which spanned three clubs in two countries, has been resolved, with Escarra heading to Ponce for the 2023-24 winter season, while Blanco will play in the Dominican Republic for Estrellas Orientales.
In the last week of September, the LBPRC league president, Juan A. Flores, sent two letters of complaint to Juan Puello, the president of the Confederation de Béisbol Profesional del Caribe, regarding the LIDOM teams contacting and attempting to sign Blanco and Escarra.
On September 26, ESPN Deportes reported the LBPRC requested that LIDOM be sanctioned to “take action and stop the continued piracy practices by some of its franchises,” while urging the Dominican League to assume responsibility for “the unethical behavior that some franchises are carrying out.”
ESPN Deportes stated that Escarra didn’t have a formal contract with Aguilas Cibaenas. Manny García, manager of Estrellas Orientales, also talked to ESPN Deportes on September 26 about Blanco.
“At the moment the organization would not go into details about the matter since it is in the hands of Blanco’s lawyers,” Garcia said.
Sports agent Carlos Perez of Leona Sports in Miami represents Blanco and Escarra. Perez spoke about the dispute between the Leones de Ponce against the Estrellas Orientales and the Aguilas Cibaenas.
“There are no such infractions and he stated that the executives of the Leones de Ponce are totally wrong,” Perez said on Grandes en los Deportes, a radio sports program based in the Dominican Republic.
Perez said that he spoke to executives both from the LBPRC and the Leones de Ponce and told them that Blanco was not going to play in Puerto Rico because he did not have a passport. This resulted in him committing to play in the Dominican Republic for the 2023-24 season.
Perez expanded on Escarra’s commitment to Leones de Ponce with ESPN Deportes, stating, “Escarra talks to me and tells me that he had received many verbal offers, from various people and not necessarily from the team management. There are many people who call trying to give an offer for something. Escarra remained with Ponce’s contract the entire time.”
Pelota Cubana reporter Yusseff Diaz spoke with Perez on September 27. Perez told Diaz that Blanco signed with Estrellas Orientales before the deadline was placed from the Winter League Agreement and the CBPC.
Perez said to Diaz, “In fact, Ponce was always told that Dairon was not going to return, this was also discussed by Dairon with Leones de Ponce General Manager/Team Manager Edwin Rodriguez.”
Diaz asked Perez if the signing of Blanco’s contract was legal for Estrellas Orientales. “Dairon’s rights are not owned by the Ponce team, so his signing with the Dominican Republic is legal. He is a foreigner and can take the path he wants, but in any case Edwin Rodriguez always agreed that Dairon was free to choose where to play,” Perez told Diaz.