WASHINGTON -- The Nationals agreed to terms with seven international free agents on Tuesday, a smaller class than they have brought in compared with recent seasons, but a group that Nats vice president of international operations Johnny DiPuglia was still extremely excited about. After spending the past two seasons using its international slot money to fill out depth, Washington targeted a few key players this year and landed one of the top pitchers from Venezuela.
The group was headlined by right-hander Andry Lara, No. 16 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 International Prospects list, who signed a deal worth $1.25 million, sources told MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez.
“It’s a good class,” DiPuglia said during a phone interview on Tuesday. “There’s athleticism, right-handed pitching, left-handed pitching. ... It’s not like the normal [class] where we sign a lot of kids. We planned it that way the last two years, where we signed a high number [of prospects] to get away with signing [fewer] this year.”
Lara profiles as a top-of-the-rotation starter, with a fastball that hovers around 92-94 mph; he has reached as high as 96 mph with it. His two-seam fastball might be his best pitch, but he also throws a power breaking ball. Lara also has good feel for his changeup, which features some sink. And he knows how to attack hitters, with some deception in his delivery and an aggressive approach.
The Nats also landed outfielder Roismar Quintana from Venezuela in a deal that is reportedly worth $820,000, according to Sanchez. Quintana is a physical hitter who hits the ball hard. He has played mostly center field, and the ball jumps off his bat, per DiPuglia.
Shortstop Juan Garcia from the Dominican Republic will get a chance to stick at the position because he is a plus runner, who ran a 6.4 in the 40-yard dash.
The remaining players the Nationals signed include left-hander Pablo Aldonis, shortstop Dawry Martinez and outfielder Eliesel Santana from the Dominican Republic, and left-hander Franklin Marquez from Venezuela. Aldonis reportedly signed for $1,000,000 and Martinez received a $600,000 bonus.
“We’re really excited about this group because it’s well-rounded,” DiPuglia said.
According to the rules established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round B of the Rule 4 Draft receive a pool of $6,481,200 for spending on international prospects, while clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round A of the Rule 4 Draft receive $5,939,800.
The Nationals have $4,321,400 to spend after signing free agent Patrick Corbin and exceeding the luxury tax last season.
Teams are allowed to trade as much of their international pool money as they would like, but can only acquire 60% of a team's initial pool amount. Additionally, signing bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count toward a club's bonus pool, and foreign professional players who are at least 25 years of age and have played in a foreign league for at least six seasons are also exempt.
Under the previous system, teams were penalized for exceeding their bonus pools with consequences that ranged from taxes on their spending to the maximum penalty, which was being prohibited from signing any prospect for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods. That’s no longer the case and there are no longer penalties. Teams can only spend their allotted bonus pools and the monies acquired via trade.