In an article about the varying levels of the Washington Nationals' interest in some of the Cuban-born players available on the international market this winter, the Washington Post's James Wagner reported on November 4, 2014 that, "... Nationals talent evaluators have scouted the three infield free agents who have experience at second base," and, "... have been most interested in [Jose] Fernandez and [Yoan] Moncada."
Fernandez, 26, and a left-handed hitting infielder, was described by Baseball America's Ben Badler when the second baseman defected, as having, "... excellent bat control and plate discipline with occasional power," which allowed him to put up, "... a .326/.482/.456 line in 314 plate appearances," with Matanzas in the Serie Nacional in 2013-14.
According to the WaPost's Wagner, however, Moncada, a 19-year-old who, as BA's Badler reported this past August, put up a, ".273/.365/.406 in 195 plate appearances as an 18-year-old," in Cuba last season and was granted permission to leave, might "fit [the Nationals'] needs more."
"The Nationals believe he has a higher ceiling and his age is a plus," Wagner wrote, and they planned on sending both "Johnny DiPuglia, the Nationals’ director of Latin American operations, and Deric Ladnier, a top scout," to Guatemala to watch a showcase the switch-hitting second baseman was holding on November 12th.
In an article this past week, BA's Badler mentioned Washington as a team to watch in the market for Moncada, who was already declared a free agent by MLB, but had not yet, "obtained the specific license from OFAC that Major League Baseball requires players to have before signing."
The field for Yoan Moncada is wide open. But the Yankees, Tigers, Braves and five other teams are the ones to watch: http://t.co/PN8xEaprJi— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) November 20, 2014
If they were to sign Moncada, (and ESPN.com's Keith Law suggested recently that he will get somewhere around $30M+), the Nationals, who "have the third-lowest bonus pool," as Badler wrote, "... won’t be allowed to sign a pool-eligible player for more than $300,000 for the next two signing periods, but that limit wouldn’t be a huge blow to the Nationals."
Badler: "They also typically don’t sign players for more than that amount anyway, and international director Johnny DiPuglia and his staff have found some late-blooming bargains in Latin America in righthander Reynaldo Lopez and middle infielder Wilmer Difo."
The Nats have shown a willingness to spend on the Amateur Draft, Badler reasons, and Mondcada, "... as a special talent could tempt them to make a big investment now on the international side, especially with second base a position of need."
As ESPN.com's Mr. Law notes, however, teams exceeding the "budget for international free agents," to sign Moncada will have to, "pay a penalty of 100 percent on any amount paid to Moncada over that team's fixed budget amount," so, in addition to being limited to spending just "$300,000 for the next two signing periods" the team that signs him would have to pay "nearly $60 million in salary and penalties."
Will GM Mike Rizzo and Nationals make this big splash on the international market this winter?