In an article this winter on the Washington Nationals' interest in several of the Cuban-born prospects expected to sign in the coming months, Washington Post writer James Wagner wrote about Nats' scouts looking at a number of infielders including Jose Fernandez, Hector Olivera and Yoan Moncada with the Nationals "most interested" in Fernandez and Moncada, "whose age and high ceiling," Wagner wrote, were a "plus." Baseball America's Ben Badler made a fairly convincing argument why the Nationals might make sense as a suitor for Moncada, who's expected to sign soon for somewhere from $30-$50M and cost the team that signs him twice that with the near-100% penalty incurred by any major league team that spends beyond their alloted pool for internationals signings.
In a follow-up article earlier this month the WaPost's Wagner added Andy Ibanez to the list of Cuban infielder the Nats have scouted this winter while considering the Nationals' place in the Moncada market and writing that Nats' GM Mike Rizzo was, "... leery of locking up the team’s bonus pool for three years for one player," with the fines and other penalties for exceeding the budget for international signings.
As BA's Ben Badler explained back in November, "[a]ny team that goes over its 2014-15 bonus pool by more than 15 percent won’t be allowed to sign a pool-eligible player for more than $300,000 for the next two signing periods," which he argued, "wouldn’t be a huge blow to the Nationals," since Washington doesn't, "typically don’t sign players for more than that amount anyway," and the Nats have been able to find relative bargains in the past with players like Reynaldo Lopez and Wilmer Difo.
A "special talent" like Moncada, however, "could tempt them to make a big investment now on the international side," Badler wrote, with infield depth an organizational need.
That was, of course, before shortstop Trea Turner (the expected PTBNL in the 3-team deal with the Nats, Padres and Rays) was acquired, as the Washington Post's Wagner noted in his February 3rd article, and before the acquisition of Yunel Escobar, "...who is under control for three more years," which could help the Nationals bridge the gap until their next-generation infielders like Turner and Difo are major league-ready. So is infield depth still a big organizational need for the Nats?
Cuban RHP Yadier Alvarez, 18, has showcase in DR weds. Compared to young Ramon Martinez. Hit 98 mph in workout last week.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) February 9, 2015
In an article on the market for a number of the Cuban-born players mentioned above and some others who are now available (75 in total right now?), MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez wrote today about where some of the big names were likely to sign, and though he didn't mention the Nationals in connection to any of the infielders mentioned previously, he did suggest there was interest, on the Nationals' behalf, in an 18-year-old pitcher.
Yadier Alvarez is a 6'3'' right-hander, "who has burst onto the international scouting scene in the last few weeks," Sanchez writes, with, "a fastball that touches 98 mph," a, "plus-slider and an above-average changeup," who has impressed scouts who've watched recent workouts after which "one high-ranking National League official" said, "Alvarez was the best 18-year-old pitcher he had ever seen."
Sanchez lists the Nationals as one of the teams with interest in Alvarez and mentions the Nats and D-Backs as the likely destinations for the pitcher.
Yadier Alvarez scouting video via Kiley McDaniels/Fangraphs.com:
CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman compared the righty to a "young Ramon Martinez" after Alvarez reportedly hit 98 mph with his fastball in an early February workout.
Fangraphs.com's Kiley McDaniel wrote that Alvarez hit, "98 mph again in the outing I went to on one scout’s gun... hit 97 mph multiple times on every gun," and was, "sitting at 93-96 mph over his two innings," in an outing for scouts in the Dominican Republic.
McDaniel spoke to people in Alvarez's camp, who said, "they expect Alvarez’s paperwork to be done in 4-8 weeks and for him to sign as a part of the current July 2 period." He also wrote that Alvarez was "clearly better" than recent D-Backs' signee Yoan Lopez, who got an "$8.25 million bonus" which, "... means Alvarez should go for $10 million or more, with his further workouts dictating what the ceiling may be."
Alvarez only defected recently and as MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez wrote, he, "didn't have any professional experience in Cuba's top league," so the starter is, "... raw and could use some polish, particularly with his command, but he's young and has time on his side."
Is he worth a $20M risk and the penalties? Will the Nationals get involved in the bidding and make a splash on the international market?