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Can The Washington Nationals Find A Starter And Center Fielder On International Market? Yu Darvish, Yoenis Cespedes Rumors.

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So what if I told you that the Washington Nationals could fill their two biggest stated needs, a front-end starter and a leadoff/center fielder, without losing any prospects or draft picks? Impossible? No. Expensive? Yes. But the Nats' name has been mentioned this winter in connection to two players who could potentially provide exactly what they're looking to add to their 2012 roster. The catch? Neither player has much experience against major league competition and all the usual deep-pocketed suspects are involved in the conversation as well. Another problem? The Nats seem to think they can compete with the NL East elite this season, and adding two inexperienced (in terms of MLB competition) players to an already-young roster might not be the thing that gets them to the next level. Then again, the two players being talked about are 25 and 26, respectively, and coming off record-setting seasons in their respective leagues...

The two players, of course, are Nippon-Ham Fighters' right-hander Yu Darvish and Cuban-born outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Raise your hand if you heard Cespedes' name before around midnight last night? Liars...

I watched the last World Baseball Classic and I don't recall the 26-year-old center fielder's name sticking out. Washington Post reporter Adam Kilgore wrote about the Nationals' interest in Cespedes this morning in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes on the Nationals’ radar", after both Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein and Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan posted stories and a video (since removed, hope you didn't miss it, it was odd/epic) on the so-called "second-best" player in Cuba just after midnight last night. 

Cespedes hit 33 HR's in 90 games last season in Cuba, a league-record according to the promotional video and the Washington Post's Mr. Kilgore. The outfielder held a workout session for scouts last week with the WaPost's Mr. Kilgore noting that "multiple Nationals talent evaluators" were in attendance. "'We know a lot about him,'" a "team official" tells the reporter. The Nationals remained under the radar for the most part before turning up as one of the runners-up if not the next team in line behind the Cincinnati Reds in the Aroldis Chapman market two winters back. D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters recently that he himself had scouted the other big name that may or may not be available this winter, Yu Darvish. 

"We've scouted him over the years," Rizzo told reporters two weeks back in an update on the Nationals' plans, "I've scouted him personally over the years, our pro scouts have scouted him this year specifically. We've scouted the whole Japanese Professional League as well as every other international league that plays organized baseball. As we've always said, we're open to acquire talent in any way, shape or form that we can, and if it's international talent, we're certainly willing to acquire international players."

Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan (on the Twitter (@JeffPassan), cited his colleague Tim Brown as the source of a list of teams that are reportedly interested in Yoenis Cespedes: "The full list of Yoenis Cespedes suitors from @TBrownYahoo: Yankees, Phillies, Marlins, Blue Jays, Giants, Nationals, Indians, A's, Pirates." Oddly enough,'s Bill Ladson (@washingnats) wrote about the last and first big international free agent signing by the Nats this morning as well. "#Nats RHP Yunesky Maya has a sore right elbow, but the injury is not considered serious. He is currently playing for Criollos de Caguas."

The Nationals signed Maya in July of 2010, inking the then-28-year-old right-hander to a 4-year/$8M dollar deal in what Mike Rizzo described then as the Nats' "first major international signing." The returns thus far (1-4, 5.23 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 4.13 K/9, 2.76 BB/9 in 15 G, 10 GS, 58.2 IP) have been underwhelming to say the least. Can a team that sees itself as being close-to-competitive risk investing in players as talented but unproven as Yu Darvish and Yeonis Cespedes at this point in the organization's development, or should they invest in more proven talent that might not have as much upside but could provide them with what they need to take the next step? Darvish could cost close to $100M if he ever is posted. $30M is the number being thrown around with Cespedes. It's only money...