San Diego Padres catcher Francisco Mejia dropped a six-month-old lawsuit Thursday against a company that invested $360,000 in him in 2016 in exchange for a 10 percent stake in his future big league earnings.
Mejia issued an apology and said he plans to honor his agreement with Big League Advance. In February, Mejia filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Delaware claiming that the company used "unconscionable tactics'' and predatory techniques to get him to sign off on the arrangement.
"Today I dropped my lawsuit against Big League Advance,'' Mejia said in a statement. "I am happy with my agreement with Big League Advance, and appreciative of the information and support they provided to me. To be clear -- I do not believe Big League Advance has ever deceived me. All of my interactions with Big League Advance and specifically Michael Schwimer have been very professional and respectful.
"I believe that Big League Advance offers a great option for all minor league players, and one that worked for me and helped me focus on baseball and fulfill my dream of reaching the major leagues. I want to make clear that I fully intend to honor my original agreement with Big League Advance. I apologize to BLA for filing the complaint and I have agreed to pay a portion of their legal fees as a result of my actions. I am happy to be putting this entire situation behind me and I am looking forward to focusing on baseball and continuing my professional baseball career.''
Schwimer, a former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher, is founder and president of Big League Advance, a company that describes itself on its website as an "investment fund'' that provides "capital, not loans'' to aspiring big leaguers. The company's roster of partners and board members includes Paul DePodesta, chief strategy officer for the NFL's Cleveland Browns and a former executive with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics, and Marvin Bush, the youngest son of former President George H.W. Bush.
"We are pleased that Francisco Mejia has dropped his lawsuit,'' Schwimer said in a statement. "Big League Advance exists to help baseball players like Francisco achieve their dream of playing in the major leagues. Through our investments in minor league players, we provide them with the economic security and flexibility they need to help pursue a career in baseball. We have always, and will always, continue to act with the utmost professionalism and integrity.
"Our number one priority is to make sure any player we meet with has a complete understanding of our offer and access to all of the information they need in order to make the most informed decision. We were especially touched by the overwhelming support we received from hundreds of minor league players during this situation. We are grateful to all of them and will continue to help minor league players achieve their dream of becoming major leaguers.''
Mejia's suit contended that he is projected to earn $100 million over the course of his career -- which means BLA could receive $10 million in exchange for its $360,000 investment. The suit had asked that the contract be declared unenforceable and the payment voided, and that he receive unspecified compensatory damages.
According to the claim, Mejia reached agreement with Big League Advance at a time when his mother was very ill and the family needed money to pay for her medical treatment
In its response to Mejia's complaint, Big League Advance denied that it engages in "unconscionable practices" or that Mejia was under duress when he consented to his agreement with the company. Schwimer said Mejia's representatives at the ISE agency were fully aware of the initial agreement, which took two weeks to complete, and that the group's legal team reviewed the contract before Mejia signed it. He said Big League Advance asked Mejia questions on video, with his agent listening in by phone, to make sure the player understood all the ramifications of the deal.
Schwimer said Mejia initiated contact with Big League Advance for second and third installments of the agreement and approached the company for a fourth time before filing his lawsuit. Mejia, 22, is a .291 hitter with a .792 OPS over parts of six minor league seasons with the Cleveland and San Diego organizations. In 2016, while playing for Cleveland's Class A Lynchburg affiliate in the Carolina League, he hit safely in 50 straight games -- the longest minor league streak in 62 years.
Mejia hit .118 (2-for-18) in brief call-ups with Cleveland in 2017 and earlier this season. On July 19, the Indians traded Mejia to the Padres for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. Mejia has a .296/.339/.500 slash line in 28 games with San Diego's Triple-A El Paso club in the Pacific Coast League.