Lazarito, rep part ways amid claims of threats

February 23rd, 2016

Lazaro "Lazarito" Armenteros is looking for new representation after the 16-year-old Cuban prospect's negotiating representative claims his life was threatened by the prospect's "investor," has confirmed.

Charles Hairston, who has been the player's negotiating representative with Major League teams, said the alleged threat came on Feb. 14. His agency, Culture 39, decided to stop representing Armenteros on Tuesday.

The story was first reported by Hairston, a cousin of former big leaguers Jerry and Scott Hairston and a nephew of Jerry Hairston Sr., did not want to name the investor.

"We stepped aside officially early this morning, but we were still negotiating and working with teams until noon [Tuesday]," Hairston said. "Nothing was coming to fruition the way we wanted to and the best thing for us, thinking about our safety and our future was to step away. Lazarito is a great player, a once in-a-lifetime player, and it hurt us to step aside. The kid trusted us, and he got choked up about it. But I've got a family, we have other clients and there are other things going on."

Armenteros, ranked No. 8 on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 International Prospects list, like most Cuban players, is receiving assistance from an investor who helps players find training, housing and clothing for a percentage of the player's future salary. Hairston alleges the investor wanted more control of Lazarito's fate and reached out to teams on the player's behalf without telling him. Hairston also claims the investor began speaking with other agencies in an effort to change representation.

The alleged death threat came after a business meeting over dinner on Feb. 14, in the Dominican Republic the agent said.

"I wish I had been a little more intrusive in what was going on with the relationship with the investor," Hairston said. "We always wanted to be out of the investor's business, because that was none of our business. But because we weren't in their business enough, it affected what we could do for our client and what we wanted to do. Maybe I could have done more. I wish I could do that part all over again."

The day after he claims he was threatened, Hairston decided to leave the Dominican Republic, but he continued to represent Armenteros until Tuesday. Hairston said he did so in an attempt to fulfill his remaining responsibilities to the player.

Armenteros, who established residency in Haiti in May, had his first open showcase last month and has been displaying his talents in private workouts for teams during the past several weeks in the Dominican Republic.

According to Hairston, the investor wanted Armenteros to sign as soon as possible, while Hairston took a more measured approach to evaluating possible landing spots. The agency wanted to wait until July 2, when the next international signing period begins and more clubs would have the necessary funds in their international bonus pools to sign the 16-year-old.

International signing period primer

Armenteros was named to the all-tournament team last year after hitting .462 with eight RBIs in nine games during Cuba's championship run at the U15 Baseball World Cup in Mexico. He also had 42 hits in 38 games, with six home runs and 12 stolen bases for Havana's under-15 team in 2014. Armenteros recorded five hits, including two triples, in four games for Havana as a 13-year-old.

More than 100 Cuban players, including several All-Stars, have played in the Majors since the U.S. imposed sanctions on the island in 1961. Approximately 125 prospects have left the island in the past 20 months seeking Major League contracts with defection -- either leaving a national team during an international tournament or late-night escapes from Cuba to ports in Haiti or Mexico -- having traditionally been the only way for players to make it to the big leagues since Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

Part of the mission of MLB's goodwill trip to Cuba in December was to learn more about the island and bridge the gap between the two countries using baseball. The trip came with the U.S. and Cuba seeking to normalize relations and with baseball searching for a safe way to get Cuban players in the Major Leagues.