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The Nats And The International Market

Beginning today, the date where Major League Baseball clubs can sign international prospects to contracts, you're going to see plenty of examples of (alleged) teenagers receiving large sums of money. This year's top-ranked Latin American prospect is Miguel Angel Sano, a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop whose top suitor, the Pirates, conducted bone-graft tests that assign an age range based on DNA.

Maybe this all sounds familiar, because the Nats, in previous years, have played the high-risk market. Famously, in 2006, they paid $1.4 million for a Dominican 16-year-old named Esmailyn Gonzalez, who turned out to be neither 16 nor named Esmailyn. When Gonzalez's true identity was learned this spring, the resulting scandal caused Washington to part ways with Jose Rijo and GM Jim Bowden, relocate its Dominican baseball academy, and start anew on its efforts to cultivate pipelines in Latin America.

The Nats have now established a facility in Boca Chica, but they're not quite ready to reenter the high-stakes auction for top international talent. This year, the Nats will make hardly a peep. They might sign a few marginal prospects, but probably won't dish out a single six-figure signing bonus. Not all of that reticence can be attributed to the Gonzalez scandal; the Nats this year know they need to devote their resources (err, money) to a certain amateur pitcher, Stephen Strasburg. Still, the Gonzalez mess was a setback. Team president Stan Kasten has admitted as much, and said he doesn't expect much activity on the international front until 2010.

Though the Gonzalez revelation remains the highest-profile case of forged identity, it's hardly the only one. Just this week, the Cleveland Indians learned that a Dominican shortstop, thought to be 17-year-old Jose Ozoria, is actually a 20-year-old named Wally Bryan.

(I love that. Wally Bryan. Wally sounds like your neighborhood plumber. Next thing you know, Miguel Sano will turn out to be named Herb Cohen.)

So, buyer beware.

In conjunction with the July 2 signing date, Baseball America published a lengthy team-by-team preview, analyzing each MLB club's likely involvement in the international market. It identifies six teams -- the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Cardinals, Mariners and Mets -- as "High Rollers." Then you have categories like "New Money," "Middle Ground," "Bargain Shoppers," so on and so on.

Four teams, in this hierarchy of involvement, are categorized under the heading, "Maybe Next Year."

One is the Nationals.

BA writes, "The Nationals are trying to turn things around since the Esmailyn Gonzalez/Carlos Alvarez scandal. They are out scouting some of the top prospects for this year, but between a new international scouting staff and the money they'll need to sign Stephen Strasburg, it seems unlikely they'll make much noise in Latin America this year. If Washington can't sign Strasburg by Aug. 17, it could plow some money into Latin America, but there isn't a Nationals fan out there rooting for that to happen."

By Chico Harlan  |  July 2, 2009; 10:57 AM ET
 
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Comments

The Nationals should save that excuse for next year as well. Bryce Harper is going to cost as much (and likely more) than Strasburg.

Posted by: Brian_ | July 2, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Hey look, if you get burned with one guy in 2006, doesn't that mean that you have to stay away from all the others? Makes sense to me! Maybe not in a long-term baseball sense--I'm thinking more of short-term balance sheet kinds of sense.

Posted by: EdDC | July 2, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

The Nationals' idea of the international market is Pittsburgh. Or Cincinnati.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 2, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Competing posts of the day (belatedly):

"Brue, I am so glad to hear your voice of reason"
Posted by: dfh21 | July 1, 2009 6:36 PM

"OLDSKOOLDIEHARD: Finally a voice of reason"
Posted by: dargregmag | July 1, 2009 10:17 PM

Is it possible to have multiple voices of reason? If so, I think Manny should be fired. If not, then Manny should stay.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | July 2, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I've said it before and I'll say it again. It's simply unforgiveable and pound-foolish to not be aggressive in the Dominican (or South America, Korea or Japan) because of budgetary restraints on signings. Those signings are still *WAY!!* cheaper than major-league talent.

Posted by: Section406 | July 2, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

This is a damn joke! We have money to burn when it comes to Teixeria and a stupid contract like the one we offered him, but when it comes to actual building blocks of the organisation we are putting everything in the Strasburg basket?

If the budget does allow for signing international free agents then we need to re-write the budget. The Lerners are being cheap! And betraying the fans by being to cheap. Commit to this team or sell it!

Posted by: soundbloke | July 2, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I wonder what category the Nats were classified in last year - before the Smiley debacle?

Posted by: lowcountry | July 2, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Was anyone else following Boswell's chat and just saw it be replaced with the text of a chat of his from 2006?

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | July 2, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

@lowcountry - The folks who follow this closest (Baseball America, ESPN, etc) all had the Nationals sitting it out. The rumblings were already there about investigations into their D.R. academy

Posted by: Brian_ | July 2, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

@CiL - Yes

Posted by: Brian_ | July 2, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

The Lerners, aka BMers, are running the eqivalent of a baseball ponzi scheme. There is no real professional team, GM, Manager and proably no DR facilty. The BMers should be forced to sell unless they step up and start acting like owners of a major market team.

Posted by: mjames0 | July 2, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for that dope, Brian. How vexing that the Nats might allow the same problem to curtail their international activities for two years in a row. Argh.

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 2, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

The actual chat is back now.

On the international signings issue, it's amazing how many different things the Nats can make excuses about rather than spend some money. They make excuses for low MLB payroll, no significant international signings, and last year's draft. It's especially stupid on the international front, where relatively little money can go such a long way.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | July 2, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

"Was anyone else following Boswell's chat and just saw it be replaced with the text of a chat of his from 2006?"

Yes, and my head is still spinning.

Posted by: joebleux | July 2, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

"same problem to curtail their international activities for two years in a row"

The Nationals have announced the signing of a grand total of ONE player during the last three international signing periods (2006-08).

Smiley Gonzalez.

If the stories are true, that will soon become four years.

They have signed international players during other periods, but the July 2 timeframe is when the cream of the crop guys become available.

Posted by: Brian_ | July 2, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I find this to be the biggest betrayal. Worse than any other manifestation of the cheapness of these owners. Strasburg was the excuse for us not being bolder in the draft too. Exactly how much of our future to we gamble on one single college pitcher. He's a long shot at best too, if only because of injury.

So we won't pay because of ONE pitcher, and our system is in turmoil because ONE prospect lied about this age.

Srew this whole organisation and find m a baseball man to run.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 2, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

how do i find the chat?

Posted by: skippy1999 | July 2, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2009/06/30/DI2009063002627.html

Posted by: Brian_ | July 2, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I think it has been 2006 since the Nats have signed an international guy with more than a 100K signing bonus. Sometimes the cheap guys can outplay the big bonus guys and sometimes guys do develop later than others. Nonetheless, think back to your group of guys you played ball with as a kid. The good ones were easily recognized as the most talented. I don't recall any of us average guys going on to become better ballplayers than the good ones. The good ones usually stay the best. So when the Nats stay away from the best for monetary reasons, it usually means they will strike out, talent-wise,

The everything-for-Strasburg focus will work out OK if Strasburg can take a couple turns during the 5 day rotation, and on the other 3 days start at SS, OF, and 2B.

Posted by: EdDC | July 2, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

What about Japan or South Korea? Is there not a SINGLE Asian player the Nats could sign without breaking the Strasburg bank?

Posted by: Juan-John | July 2, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Former Post reporter Jorge Arangure has more on Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=4302422

Posted by: Brian_ | July 2, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

soundbloke,

Just read your comment.

Wouldn't it be a great protest to pick one game at home, and just stay away entirely? The game would be played before a totally empty stadium as a protest over not investing in the Nats' future. What a statement that would make. What a sight: 41,888 empty seats at Nationals Park. I realize it could never happen, but like the thought.

Posted by: EdDC | July 2, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Ted lerner is worth about 3.2 billion so yes. There are a lot of players in Japan we could afford. The same could be said of Venezuela, The DR, Cuda, Mexico and a number of other lovely countries.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 2, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

This Chapman defection is the best thing that Boras and Strasburg could have ever hoped for. Talk about setting a market! From the article Brian linked to, it would appear that Strasburg is more advanced than Chapman.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | July 2, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

EdDC,

I'm from Montreal and live in Boston so I actually pick a lot of games to avoid. But, I think that would be a great protest. Something to let them know that people in the city give a damn, even when it is becoming more and more obvious that they don't.

Of course it might be hard to tell the difference.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 2, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

"soundbloke,

Just read your comment.

Wouldn't it be a great protest to pick one game at home, and just stay away entirely? The game would be played before a totally empty stadium as a protest over not investing in the Nats' future. What a statement that would make. What a sight: 41,888 empty seats at Nationals Park. I realize it could never happen, but like the thought.

Posted by: EdDC"

Given his constant use of 'centre field' and 'organisation', I'm guessing that soundbloke has yet to set foot in Nationals Park, or RFK, or for that matter even Washington DC. So he'll probably be 100% on board with this boycott idea. And boy, won't the Lerners miss his normal concession purchase money too. That'll teach 'em!

Posted by: section417 | July 2, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Whenever I read "Boca Chica" I have to say it out loud a few times:

Boca Chica Boca Chica Boca Chica Boca Chica ...

I'm kind of in awe that the implosion in the Nats Dominican system has completely destroyed any semblance of international scouting. I don't buy the Strasburg argument, either. Whatever amount they're going to allocate to signing him, they've known for a long time that they're going to have a #1 pick and they'll have to budget accordingly.

"Maybe next year" makes me feel like a Cubs fan.

Posted by: ihatewalks | July 2, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Ed has hit the nail on the head here:

"The everything-for-Strasburg focus will work out OK if Strasburg can take a couple turns during the 5 day rotation, and on the other 3 days start at SS, OF, and 2B."

Posted by: ihatewalks | July 2, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Hooray, our very own Village Idiot is back! Looks like nunof/ABM/section417/etc didn't last very long with his self-imposed banishment.

Posted by: LernersARECheap | July 2, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I like the idea of a boycott, but getting everyone to stay home for a game will never happen.

What would be possible, with the right effort and coordination, would be to get everyone to get up in the 4th inning (for example) and go watch the game from the concourses, so that the stadium looks empty for about 20 minutes. It would get some attention.

Of course, sending everyone to the concessions at the same time puts money in the Lerners' already stuffed pockets.

Posted by: comish4lif | July 2, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

What about Japan or South Korea? Is there not a SINGLE Asian player the Nats could sign without breaking the Strasburg bank?

JuanJohn,
What do the Japanese or South Korean's know about baseball... It's not like they have done well in the World Baseball Classic... Besides look at how well the Dominican's do in the WBC.... ok well Dominicans are at least good at lies, taking steroids, faking passports, birth certificates, and MANAGING THIS TEAM!!! (Well maybe not that last one either)

EdDC,
I'm picking this entire season... See you guys in Potomac or even Bowie.

Wouldn't it be a great protest to pick one game at home, and just stay away entirely? The game would be played before a totally empty stadium as a protest over not investing in the Nats' future. What a statement that would make. What a sight: 41,888 empty seats at Nationals Park. I realize it could never happen, but like the thought.

Posted by: PNatsFan | July 2, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

@LernersARECheap: Huh?

Posted by: section417 | July 2, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

comish4lif,

Not a bad idea to leave the stadium and go to the concourse during the 4th inning. But that's when we left in the last game we attended, right after the President's Race. The score was 7 to 0 or thereabouts. Everybody on the Nats' staff wished us (and a few hundred others shuffling out) a pleasant evening as we left. So how would you tell that from a protest?

The least inconvenience is not showing up at all for one game. Sure we would lose the value of the price of our tickets that evening. On the other hand, most of the games I've seen this year aren't worth much anyway.

Posted by: EdDC | July 2, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

"What would be possible, with the right effort and coordination, would be to get everyone to get up in the 4th inning (for example) and go watch the game from the concourses, so that the stadium looks empty for about 20 minutes. It would get some attention."

How did that idea work when they tried it up in Baltimore a few years ago? Maybe the old classic brown paper bag over the head would be more effective.

Posted by: section417 | July 2, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

407

Haha! Semi busted. I have been to DC a number of times, I have been to RFK, but haven't managed to get to the new ballpark.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 2, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

What is a bone graft test? It sounds intense.

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | July 2, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, that was for 417.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 2, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

The Bone graft test... look anyone can say that they are 17. "I'm 17." See, it's that easy. And apparently it's easy enough to get forged documentation in the DR that will say almost anything.

However, the bone test can determine one's age within a range based on the DNA collected. The one that the Pirates performed on Sano gave a range of 16-17 years old.

Posted by: comish4lif | July 2, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

It's like counting the rings of a tree. Just cut here.

Posted by: natbiscuits | July 2, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm a day late with this snark, but here goes: Dukes was sent down because he's "not a finished product."

Oh, he's the one.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 2, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

First off, this was hilarious:

"(I love that. Wally Bryan. Wally sounds like your neighborhood plumber. Next thing you know, Miguel Sano will turn out to be named Herb Cohen.)"

Second, about the protest/boycott talk. I happened to be in Pittsburgh for their so-called big walkout in 2007. It was all over the radios, t-shirts were made, flyers handed out going into the game, buttons, the whole works. They were all going to get up in such-and-such an inning and go to the concourse in protest.

People walked out, but not everyone. In fact, some of the walker-outers got booed. It just looked like the normal exodus you get when an inning ends or when people start heading home. Didn't make much of a dent in the crowd and just looked silly. It was a very sad, lame protest.

And Pittsburgh had already been losing for years. No way will you get enough Washington people to a) care enough or b) even make an impact if they did care.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 2, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to "Capitol Hill" who used the Wile E. Coyote analogy for the Nats in Boz's chat.

Suuuuper Geeeeenius! :-)

Posted by: Juan-John | July 2, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Juan-Juan beat me to it. Here it is (as Ted would say, pitch perfect):

"I've finally figured out how to explain to friends what it's like rooting for the Nationals: it's like rooting for Wile E. Coyote. The Nats have a plan, they have the equipment, it looks like it's finally going to work, and then it explodes and they fall off a cliff. Will we ever catch the Road Runner?"

Posted by: BobLHead | July 2, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

@Brian - thanks
____________________________
What is a bone graft test? It sounds intense.
Posted by: nervousnatsfan |
_______________________________

One would hope it is not done on his pitching arm!

Posted by: lowcountry | July 2, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Whoops, that would be Juan-John.

Posted by: BobLHead | July 2, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Boswell is right. Trade Dunn and Willingham to the AL where they rightfully belong for some value.

You don't trade Dukes or Johnson. Johnson I think is too valuable a piece if he can prove that the injuries were a streak of bad luck. Still needs to get his power stroke back. I assume he is working on that.

Dukes is simple. Rizzo wants Morgan to move in and take over in the clubhouse. Change the demeanor and demographics. The reintroduce Dukes and see if he learns to "fit in". I really think they need another outfielder rather than pitching from any Dukes/Willingham and YES Guzman deal. As I surmised all are on the trading block. All three would fit in the American league, perhaps especially in the Eastern Division. If they could somehow get a high end just-about-ready prospect or young player with fielding / hitting / power! / speed and a type A personality who wants to win badly!

They have 2-3 shortstops down in the minors who are just about ready plus one on the bench in DC. Dukes and Maxwell can replace Willingham. Morgan and Harris provide speed, spirit and energy.

They just need a replacement for Dunn. If it takes all 3 players and maybe a young starting pitcher to get it then perhaps its worth it.

Posted by: periculum | July 2, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

So Pitt can maybe spend $4 million on this kid and our 1.2 scares us for 2-4 years? I thought Pitt was the poster child of cheap?

Posted by: goexpos2 | July 2, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

"And Pittsburgh had already been losing for years. No way will you get enough Washington people to a) care enough or b) even make an impact if they did care."

That's why the brown paper bag over the head is a much better form of protest. People get up and walk out all the time, and even if walking out does get recognized as a protest move its impact is over as soon as the protesters have left the building. The brown paper bag on the other hand endures.

Posted by: section417 | July 2, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

"Boswell is right. Trade Dunn and Willingham to the AL where they rightfully belong for some value. "

In order to trade a player, you need a team to offer something you can use.

I do agree with shopping Guzman. Villone, Biemel and Nick should be worth more since they likely will garner Type B comp, so no hurry to unload them unless blown away. Absolutely keep Dunn.

Posted by: goexpos2 | July 2, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

"Of course, sending everyone to the concessions at the same time puts money in the Lerners' already stuffed pockets."


Or the entire organization might implode.

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 2, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

New post. Tweeting comes to NatsTown.

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 2, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

>I've said it before and I'll say it again. It's simply unforgiveable and pound-foolish to not be aggressive in the Dominican (or South America, Korea or Japan) because of budgetary restraints on signings. Those signings are still *WAY!!* cheaper than major-league talent.

Not only that, they don't have to wait in line to pick them. Just send your scouts out and sign whoever you want. You know that's too simple for these geniuses. You want some bullpen help? Go to Japan and Korea. Presto>

Posted by: Brue | July 2, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Another reason not to sign Strasberg

Posted by: paulkp | July 2, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

That's great! Say Wally, where's the Beav?

---

(I love that. Wally Bryan. Wally sounds like your neighborhood plumber. Next thing you know, Miguel Sano will turn out to be named Herb Cohen.)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

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