In a late November article on the market for 19-year-old Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, Baseball America writer Ben Badler mentioned the Washington Nationals as a potential suitor for the then-soon-to-be-free agent.
YahooSports.com's Jeff Passan, in a report on Tuesday night wrote that, "MLB distributed a memo to teams Tuesday afternoon," which outlined changes to the rules regarding the signing of Cuban players, including Moncada, who is now free to sign with any major league team:
"Players who present sworn affidavits to Major League Baseball stating they are residents of another country, have no intention of returning to Cuba and are not Cuban government officials can sign with major league teams immediately, sources said."
The Nats, though they have reportedly scouted Moncada, have not been mentioned in connection to the infielder in recent articles updating his status.
Yoan Moncada is officially a free agent. Let the bidding war begin. Details on how it happened at Yahoo Sports: http://t.co/vrHO4pd1aP
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 3, 2015
Washington hasn't been mentioned as one of the teams that has held private workouts with Moncada recently either.
BA's Ben Badler, back in November, discussed why the Nationals might make sense as a team to watch in the market for Moncada.
YahooSports.com's Passan suggested Tuesday that signing the infielder could be, "an $80 million-plus investment between his signing bonus," expected to be in the $30-$40M range, "and the dollar-for-dollar penalty," the team that signs him, "... will incur for pushing teams over the international amateur signing limit."
And in addition to the signing bonus and penalties, Baseball America's Badler explained that the team that signs Moncada, "... won’t be allowed to sign a pool-eligible player for more than $300,000 for the next two signing periods."
"[T]hat limit wouldn’t be a huge blow to the Nationals," however, according to Badler, who notes that the Nats, "have the third-lowest bonus pool" for signing international free agents this year:
"[The Nationals] ... typically don’t sign players for more than that amount [$300,000] 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 Nationals also, he argued, have a lack of infield depth in the organization, though they have Difo, as mentioned, and they did acquire shortstop prospect Trea Turner after the article on the market for Moncada was written.
"The Nationals have been willing to invest in the draft," Badler wrote, "and Moncada 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."
MLB changes its Cuban policy, enabling several Cuban players to sign, including Yoan Moncada: http://t.co/lwWTYcX5bG
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) February 3, 2015
After committing $210M to Max Scherzer this winter, will the Nationals go out and spend $80M on a potential future infielder?
How about a future infield mix that features Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Wilmer Difo and Yoan Moncada?
We do know that the Nats scouted Moncada.
Washington Post reporterJames Wagner wrote on November 4, 2014 that there was interest in some of the Cuban players available this winter.
"[The] Nationals talent evaluators have scouted the three infield free agents who have experience at second base," he wrote, and, "... have been most interested in [Jose] Fernandez and [Yoan] Moncada."
Moncada, who, as BA's Badler reported this past August, posted a, ".273/.365/.406 in 195 plate appearances as an 18-year-old," in Cuba last season, might "fit [the Nationals'] needs more," Wagner wrote.
"The Nationals believe he has a higher ceiling and his age is a plus," Wagner said, and the Nats planned at the time on sending evaluators, including DiPuglia, the Nats’ director of Latin American operations, to watch a showcase the switch-hitting second baseman was holding on November 12th.
After their sort-of out-of-nowhere signing of Scherzer took the biggest free agent arm off the pitching market, any chance the Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo shock the world again and take the biggest name off the international market?