The Washington Nationals conducted what Nats' GM Mike Rizzo described as a "very thorough evaluatory process" before signing right-handed international free agent Yunesky Maya to a 4-year/$8M dollar in what the general manager described in 2010 as the team's "first major international signing."
According to Rizzo, five separate scouts watched Maya pitch, "during international competition over the years, most recently during the World Baseball Classic and we had multiple reports on him and we scouted him very in-depth in the Dominican Republic once we got over there." Maya became a free agent after defecting from Cuba, where the pitcher, "earned Cuba's equivalent of the Cy Young during his final season in his homeland, going 13-4 with seven complete games and a 2.22 ERA," as the Nationals' press release on the signing noted.
Rizzo would later admit that the decision to bring the pitcher up to make his major league debut just a little over a month after he signed had been a mistake. Maya struggled in his first five MLB starts, posting a 5.88 ERA, 5.16 FIP, 11 walks (3.81 BB/9) and 12 Ks (4.15 K/9) in 26 IP. "It probably wasn't the best way to handle Yunesky Maya last year," Rizzo explained that winter, "but he was very driven and impatient to get to the big leagues and [we] probably put him in a position that was difficult for him to succeed, so I'll take that one on my back."
The Nationals' general manager was, however, still confident that Maya could pitch at the major league level. "We think that he's a very capable starting pitcher in the major leagues," Rizzo said. "He was the no.1 starter on a really good Cuban national club, [and] has proven that he can compete at the highest level." It didn't work out that way.
Maya spent the majority of his 2011 campaign at Triple-A Syracuse, where he had a 5.00 ERA, a 3.86 FIP, 28 walks (1.94 BB/9) and 98 Ks (6.80 K/9) in 22 starts and 192 2/3 IP. He had a 5.23 ERA, a 4.40 FIP, 11 walks and 12 Ks in 10 games and five starts with the Nationals that season. Maya didn't pitch for the Nationals in 2012, going (11-10) with a 3.88 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 40 walks (2.16 BB/9) and 89 Ks (4.80 K/9) in 167 IP for the Nats' top affiliate. He was (8-8) with a 3.87 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 31 walks (1.91 BB/9) and 99 Ks (6.09 K/9) in 146 1/3 IP in Syracuse in 2013.
The right-hander, who turned 32 in late August 2013, made one appearance in a Nationals uniform this season with disastrous results, and he was designated for assignment afterwards. Once he cleared waivers, Maya returned to Syracuse, where he finished out the season. According to a report from Baseball America's Matt Eddy, the Nationals officially cut ties with Maya today:
#Nationals release Cuban RHP Yunesky Maya, whom they signed to 4-year, $6 million deal in August 2010 after he defected.— Matt Eddy (@MattEddyBA) November 23, 2013
• Note: I do believe Maya signed for 4-year/$8M as noted above, not the $6M mentioned in the tweet. MLB.com's Bill Ladson has since written that he has confirmed the report by BA's Mr. Eddy.
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