Rangers feel impact of new Venezuela visa regulations

Ability to scout in country challenged by three-month lag time for application

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers, like all other clubs that scout players in Venezuela, will be impacted by new visa restrictions for U.S. citizens traveling to the country.

On Friday, Major League Baseball issued a memo informing all clubs of the new travel guidelines to Venezuela that now require U.S. citizens to apply for and obtain a visa to enter the country. As stated in the memo, the Venezuelan Embassy website advises that U.S. citizens traveling to Venezuela apply for a visa three months before travel. Previously, U.S. citizens were exempt from any visa requirement.

Most teams now centralize their Latin American operations in the Dominican Republic, but the Phillies, Mariners, Tigers, Cubs and Rays all have facilities in Venezuela and still participate in the Venezuelan Summer League.

"There's a real impact on the international market, and I hope it's not a lasting impact for Venezuela, because there are tremendous players down there," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "Three days ago, we sent out a memo to our scouts that said until further notice, we don't want anybody that's not a Venezuelan resident traveling to Venezuela until we have more information. We know that this is significantly detrimentally impacting clubs' ability to go to Venezuela and scout the players."

Clubs were also informed that at least one airline flying into Venezuela has announced it will deny boarding to anyone who does not possess the appropriate visa. The memo also advised caution when traveling to and from Venezuela, along with the avoidance of political demonstration and discussion on political subjects. Furthermore, the memo also advised the heeding of U.S. State Department warnings on the prevalence of kidnapping and other violent crimes in the country.

"We have been told we have to apply for visas and to expect about a three-month lag time before the visa would be granted, which in the scouting world, I'm not sure anyone is planning three months in advance," Levine said. "I don't really know logistically how that's going to work, and even in the context of that, there is still some caution due to the political unrest and determining whether or not you should be going there anyway."

Earlier this week, a U.S. scout for the Houston Astros was not allowed into Venezuela because he did not have the proper paperwork. The Mariners have closed their academy in Venezuela, according to reports.

"When you marry it up with some of the new rules Major League Baseball has issued in terms of the ability to scout [future] classes, I think it puts an extra burden on people who are training players in Venezuela to actually have their players seen," Levine said. "I would think what could happen in the short term is that the teams that have the best scouts on the ground in Venezuela that are Venezuelan residents will have a decided advantage."

For their part, the Rangers have been allotted an international bonus pool of $4,586,600 to spend on the upcoming 2015-16 international signing period that starts July 2. The majority of the players signed during the international signing periods for all teams come from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

"We feel very confident about the scouts we have on the ground, but I do wonder to what extent are you willing to sign off on a signing bonus for players that you haven't had your chief evaluators outside of the country see," Levine said. "It's going to be very challenging."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.