The Nationals Wouldn't Pay Out Dead Prospect's Signing Bonus Until His Family Promised Not To Sue Them

Illustration for article titled The Nationals Wouldn't Pay Out Dead Prospect's Signing Bonus Until His Family Promised Not To Sue Them

The circumstances surrounding the death of Yewri Guillén—an 18-year-old Dominican prospect who had been signed by the Washington Nationals—remain murky. But a piece in the latest issue of Mother Jones reveals they weren't so murky that the Nationals didn't make sure to absolve themselves of any liability.


Guillén started having headaches in April 2011. At the time he was living at the Nationals' training facility in Boca Chica. The headaches got worse and worse, and soon a fever set in. Because his contract with the Nationals had not yet been finalized, Guillén's health insurance hadn't kicked in, and he couldn't afford the $1,300 admittance fee to the nation's best private hospital. Instead, he went to a free clinic, where he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. He died just two weeks after the headaches had started.

We know these details thanks to a 2011 Washington Post article, but Ian Gordon of Mother Jones got his hands on the binding agreement signed by Guillén's parents a month after their son's funeral.

Exactly when and how Guillén became ill remains unclear to this day. But in 2011, in return for Guillén's $30,000 signing bonus, his parents agreed to the following terms:

(1) that Guillén died of bacterial meningitis, but that he'd contracted it outside of the facility and therefore it had nothing to do with the Nationals;

(2) that the team gave Guillén the appropriate treatment when he got sick;

(3) that they would never sue the team or its employees for the death of their son.

"They came here to screw us over," Ortiz said, his voice rising. "We didn't want problems-we just wanted things to be resolved."

Oddly, the first stipulation in the agreement above contradicts the results of an MLB investigation into Guillén's death, which claims that he died of a sinus infection.

Why might the Nationals have been on the hook for Guillén's death? One possibility, unearthed by Mother Jones: There were no certified athletic trainers or even doctors at the Nationals' academy.

Guillén's mother, Sandra Perdomo, confirmed to the Washington Post that she was told that she had to sign the agreement in order to get Guillén's signing bonus:

She didn't read the paperwork, assuming that's all the documents were for. She and her husband checked the paperwork three days later and discovered that they contained a clause that promised they wouldn't sue the Nationals, she said.

"I could have investigated it," said Perdomo, who didn't sound remorseful when talking Sunday. "But I wanted to leave it like that. Why continue with it? That's what I told my husband. Nothing that we do would have brought him back."


According to Mother Jones, the Washington Nationals are one of 21 MLB teams that still do not have certified trainers present at their Dominican academies.

[Mother Jones]
[Washington Post]