Royals

Yordano Ventura’s guaranteed contract still not paid two years after death; estate is broke

Two years after Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a single-car crash in his native Dominican Republic, the $20.25 million remaining on his contract has not been paid.

And his estate is broke.

Ventura’s 5-year-old daughter is listed as the sole heir of his estate, according to court documents. As the executor of the estate, her mother has hired attorneys to pursue the money left on the contract. The matter is currently being negotiated between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, a grievance process that is kept confidential, multiple sources told The Star.

Possibly complicating the case is a lack of precedent. It’s believed Ventura was the first MLB player with a multi-year guaranteed contract to have died before the deal expired.

The Royals and MLB declined comment about the contract.

Through her attorney, the mother of Ventura’s daughter also declined comment.

Court documents filed in Jackson County show Ventura owed $2.6 million on a bank loan when he died on Jan. 22, 2017. He was 25 years old. His estate is described as insolvent in one court filing, though if the contract is paid out, the money would go directly to the estate with his daughter as the heir, according to a petition filed in a Florida court.

Ventura’s daughter has already received a $12.6 million life insurance payout after her father’s death, according to court documents, but it is held in a protected trust in Florida and is not part of his estate.

While declining to specify ways in which the Royals have assisted Ventura’s family, Royals general manager Dayton Moore said he has maintained contact with Ventura’s mother, including calling her on Jan. 22, the second anniversary of his death, and added, “The Glass family has been very supportive of Yordano’s mother.”

Ventura’s marriage to Maria del Pilar Sangiovanni — once the center of turmoil in Ventura’s family — in the Dominican Republic was annulled in August 2018, which currently leaves her without a claim to the estate. A lawsuit in the Dominican Republic, filed on behalf of Ventura’s daughter, argued that the annulment should be granted because Sangiovanni was still married when she and Ventura wed.

Yordano Ventura
The late Yordano Ventura. John Sleezer jsleezer@kcstar.com

Five weeks before his death, Ventura took out a $2.9 million loan, $2.3 million of which went toward paying off a previous loan, court records show. The newest loan was due to be paid in full in October 2019, which would have been the last guaranteed year of his contract. Ventura was also $34,463 behind in tax payments, so the Internal Revenue Service held a lien on a royalty check for $65,321.87. The estate has filed a federal lawsuit to obtain that check.

Ventura had made more than $3 million in his career but operated with debt. A source familiar with Ventura’s circumstances said the reason for the financial condition of his estate was rooted entirely in his generosity: He had “a heart of gold,” the source said, that explained why he tried to take care of so many people and perhaps was vulnerable to exploitation.

He bought property and built a home for his family to live in, cars for multiple family members, ATVs and motorcycles for others, bailed out his grandfather’s hardware business and paid off debts of friends. According to court records, Ventura had also agreed to pay $4,000 per month in child support until his daughter reached legal age.

The money was on its way. When he died, the Royals owed Ventura $20.25 million over the final three years of a five-year contract he signed in April 2015. If the Royals are required to pay the contract, they would be insured for a portion of it.

In January 2017, Ventura’s Jeep smashed through a guardrail in Juan Adrian, a town in the Dominican Republic, on a mountainous road known to be dangerous. His death ended the promising career of a hard-throwing right-hander whose personality captivated a city during the club’s World Series run.

The toxicology report from Ventura’s death was given only to his family and attorneys, authorities in the Dominican Republic told The Star. The results have never been made public.

When St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras died in a car crash more than two years earlier, Dominican Republic officials released the results of his toxicology reports, which showed he was intoxicated when he lost control of his car.

Lawyers representing Ventura’s daughter’s interests in the estate, who declined comment for this story, have requested the autopsy and police reports from Ventura’s accident, according to court documents. They have also hired a private investigator in the Dominican Republic to search for Ventura’s assets there.

The last year of Ventura’s life was marked by chaos, something many close to him believed was at the core of his relationship with Sangiovanni. No immediate family members attended the wedding when they were married in his hometown of Las Terrenas on Jan. 28, 2016, just over three months after they’d met.

Their relationship had disintegrated amid a series of bizarre events over the next year. But for reasons that remain unclear, he was driving to see her in the early morning hours when he crashed.

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