In the days before the 2015 season, Yordano Ventura signed a five-year, $23 million contract extension, a deal that offered life-changing money and long-term security to one of the best young pitchers in baseball.
Now, the question remains: What will happen to the remaining $20.25 million in guaranteed money following the death of the 25-year-old pitcher in a car crash on Sunday morning in the Dominican Republic?
Ventura’s estate is likely to receive $450,000 in life insurance, a $1,050,000 accidental-death payment, and other pension-related money through Major League Baseball’s standard benefits package, according to a source familiar with the situation. But the future of the guaranteed money owed on the contract could depend on the results of a toxicology report following the accident, according to a report from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
Ventura’s contract included a provision that could void payment for failure to perform because of injury or death from driving while intoxicated, Rosenthal reported, citing anonymous league sources.
The Royals have declined comment on the specifics of the contract. But club officials say that it could take three to four months to examine the contract, weigh the factors of the crash and come to a resolution. The results of the toxicology report are expected to be finished close to three weeks after the accident, which occurred early Sunday morning.
“We’re getting a lot of guidance from the league on this,” said Royals assistant general manager Jin Wong, who specializes in contracts and budgetary matters for the club.
If Ventura was not intoxicated, it is believed his contract would remain fully guaranteed and his estate would receive the balance of the contract. The Royals possess insurance on Ventura’s contract, a customary move for large long-term deals, but it remains unclear what percentage would be covered by the policy.
Provisions that limit certain off-field activities are common in baseball contracts and nearly universal in long-term deals, according to Steve Fehr, a former player agent who formerly worked as special counsel for the MLB Players Association. In general, contracts are guaranteed through death or a deterioration of skills. But the deals often include exceptions that prohibit activities such as skiing, boating, motorcycle racing, whitewater rafting, piloting an airplane or other activities that could be considered hazardous.
Ventura, 25, completed his first full season in the majors in 2014, posting a 3.20 ERA in 183 innings while helping the club return to the World Series for the first time in 29 years. The next spring, his representatives approached the Royals about a possible extension. Ventura had signed for just $28,000 as an amateur, and he sought financial stability for his family.
Those negotiations resulted in the five-year contract, which also included team options in 2020 and 2021, each worth an additional $12 million.
Ventura made $750,000 in 2015 and $1 million in 2016. He was set to be paid $3.25 million in 2017, $6.25 million in 2018 and $9.75 million in 2019. The contract also included a $1 million signing bonus and a guaranteed $1 million buyout if the club declined either option.