Leery of delving into the international market after getting burned by a young shortstop who falsified his name and age in order to secure a $1.4 million signing bonus six years ago, the Nationals have decided to dip their toes back into the Dominican Republic pipeline and have committed a healthy amount of money to sign another teenage infielder.
The Nationals have signed 16-year-old third baseman Neivy Pilier for $225,000, according to a club source, one of the largest bonuses they've paid to an international free agent since that $1.4 million mistake in 2006 to a young Dominican shortstop who claimed to be named Esmailyn Gonzalez.
Pilier, 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, has "a quick bat with lift and occasional power in his right-handed swing," according to Baseball America. Having just turned 16 on Aug. 1, he has a strong arm to play third base but still needs to refine his footwork.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo -- who ascended to that position after Jim Bowden resigned shortly after the Gonzalez scandal went public in Feb. 2009 -- has stressed the importance of a strong international scouting department. But that department has not given a teenage prospect anything close to that much money during the last three years.
Gonzalez, it turned out, was actually named Carlos Alvarez and was four years older than he claimed. That revelation led to the firing of top Bowden lieutenant Jose Rijo and other team officials in the Dominican Republic, plus the closing of the franchise's facility there (which was owned by Rijo).
Alvarez, now 27, remains in the Nationals organization. He hit .210 in 45 games last season with short-season Class A Auburn and low-Class A Hagerstown, the highest level of the minors he has reached thus far despite the fact he's several years older than almost every other player in his league.