Big League Advance Fund is a company owned by former MLB pitcher Michael Schwimer. The company, of which Browns President Paul DePodesta is a board member, is apparently in the business of seeking out up-and-coming baseball prospects and paying them a chunk of money up front in exchange for a massive cut of their career earnings, a predatory model that would not be viable if minor league baseball players were paid fairly.
In 2016, top Indians prospect Francisco Mejía signed over 10 percent of his future career earnings to BLA in exchange for $360,000, which he says he needed to pay for his mother’s medical bills. Mejia recently filed suit against BLA on the grounds that their arrangement should be voided because of the “unconscionable” nature of BLA’s contracts.
According to Mejia, BLA targets “financially struggling” Caribbean prospects with limited English skills, and tries to pressure them into signing away future earnings in exchange for small amounts of cash up front. Mejia signed three contracts with BLA in 2016, when he was a Single-A player, and he says he was never offered an interpreter when he met with BLA reps. At their third meeting, BLA apparently paid for a lawyer to “represent” Mejía for the sole purpose of being able to claim that he had access to representation.
After Mejía earned a September call-up in 2017—and thus a pro-rated MLB minimum salary—he says BLA reps showed up at his house and threatened to sue him to prevent him from playing baseball if he didn’t pay up.
Mejía claims that BLA deliberately misled him about the nature of the payment, which he says qualifies the contract to be dissolved under Delaware state law. BLA denies that allegation, and, confusingly, claims that Mejía’s suit violates a confidentiality clause in the original contract. Sheryl Ring of Fangraphs notes that “a contract which states that its very existence is confidential is legally dubious.”
BLA not only asked the judge to dismiss Mejía’s suit, they asked for damages for his breach of the confidentiality arrangement, which sounds pretty damned predatory a lending scheme.
You can find the complaint and BLA’s answer below.