MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reported this morning that the Washington Nationals have signed 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Yasel Antuna to a $3.9M bonus.
Antuna was ranked No. 14 on MLB.com's list of the top international prospects available during the current signing period, which began today (July 2nd).
In their scouting report on the young infielder, MLB.com's scouts suggested that he was arguably the best shortstop from the Dominican Republic in this year's prospect class, noting that he "has the potential to be a five-tool player" and "has very polished actions on offense and defense for his age."
Defensively, MLB.com's scouting report added, "... he has soft hands and good body control" with a "strong arm that continues to improve" and good range that has many projecting him as an everyday shortstop in the future.
Washington's total bonus pool for the current signing period is reportedly $2.335M, which they've clearly exceeded with the first of two signings reported today for the Nationals, which includes Antuna and fellow Dominican-born shortstop Luis Garcia, who was ranked at No.7 on MLB.com's list and has reportedly agreed to a $1.5M bonus.
Baseball America's Ben Badler, noting the Nats' interest in Antuna, wrote this past January that the Nationals were one of three teams he expected to break their bonus pool during the 2016-17 signing period.
While mentioning that four of the Nationals' Top 10 prospects on Baseball America's list were from the Dominican Republic, Badler wrote that Nats' VP of International Operations Johnny DiPuglia, "... and his staff have done it without much financial backing from ownership until the last year or two."
"That's going to change this year," Badler added, "with the Nationals expected to exceed their 2016-17 bonus pool," writing all the way back in January that "[t]hey are favorites for Dominican shortstop Yasel Antuna, who many expect will be the top-paid player in the country this year."
Here's information from MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez on the penalties for exceeding international bonus pools:
"Teams that exceed the pools by 0 to 5 percent have to pay a 100 percent tax, and teams that exceed the pools by 5 to 10 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $500,000 during the next signing period and also have to pay a 100 percent tax on the pool overage. Teams that exceed the pools by 10 to 15 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next signing period and have to pay a 100 percent tax on the pool overage.
"In the most severe penalty, teams that exceed the pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods, in addition to paying a 100 percent tax on the pool overage.
"The international signing guidelines do not apply to players who previously signed a contract with a Major or Minor League club, nor do they apply to players who are least 23 years old and have played as a professional in a league recognized by the Commissioner's Office for a minimum of five seasons. Cuban players who are at least 23 and have played in a Cuban professional league for five or more seasons are also exempt."