Cruz’s bonus is the highest Washington has given an international prospect. He secured the shortstop Yasel Antuna in 2016. Yes, that means that Cruz, who will turn 17 on Saturday, signed for more money than Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Luis García. This is a product of a more competitive market and the club’s excitement for Cruz, who finished fifth on MLB.com’s international rankings. He’s listed at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, and he’s a highly skilled infielder. The hope is that his right-handed bat across the board catches up with his defenses.
Below is a full list of the players the Nationals added on day one of the international contract signing. Postponed from July due to the coronavirus pandemic, this period extends from Friday to December 15.
- Armando Cruz, SS, Dominican Republic – $ 3.9 million
- Gustavo Rivas, RHP, Venezuela (age 17) – $ 450,000
- Enmanuel Ramirez, OF, Dominican Republic (17) – $ 200,000
- Doimil Perez, RHP, Dominican Republic (17) – $ 200,000
- Genderson Zapata, RHP, Venezuela (16) – $ 200,000
- Gabriel Agostini, LHP, Venezuela (16) – $ 170,000
- Jean Estrada, OF, Venezuela (16) – $ 90,000
- Cristian Batista, OF, Dominican Republic (16) – $ 75,000
- Winder Diaz, SS, Dominican Republic (18) – $ 20,000
- Edward de la Cruz, C, Dominican Republic (18) – $ 10,000
- Jeffem Leon, RHP, Aruba (18) – $ 10,000
The Nationals had $ 5,348,100 to spend in international bonus money this year. Signatures of $ 10,000 or less do not count towards this amount. This year’s class under the heading of Cruz is a well-known mix of short stops, center fielders, a catcher and young guns to be developed. One of the principles for acquiring the Nationals is to gather talent in the middle and have them fan out from there. It becomes more relevant when dealing with teenagers.
With his signature with Washington, Cruz complements a large group of Dominicans. Soto and Robles start outfields for the Nationals. 20-year-old García was the everyday second baseman last summer after Starlin Castro broke his wrist. The 21-year-old Antuna was added to the 40-man squad this off-season. And Eddy Yean, a 19-year-old pitcher, was at the heart of a trading package that Josh Bell brought to the Nationals on Christmas Eve.
This is just the beginning of the team’s Dominican pipeline. Johnny DiPuglia, the Nationals’ deputy general manager in charge of international operations, has made great strides in the region since joining the organization in 2009. His original job was to correct a scandal-ridden intelligence operation. Then the talent poured in.
Robles made his debut in 2017 as a 20-year-old. Soto followed in 2018 at the age of 19, and García arrived in August at the age of 20. Her success – and the Nationals’ willingness to lead her through their system – will put pressure on a major to sign like Cruz. But he’s now entering a mix of many up-and-coming shortstops as the Nationals prefer to build from this location.
They designed Carter Kieboom as a shortstop in 2016 before moving him to the third base. They signed García as a shortstop, and he cracked the majors in second place. In June, they took advantage of Sammy Infante, a high school short stop from Hialeah, Fla. Infante, Antuna and Jackson Cluff – a pick-out for BYU’s sixth round in 2019 – the top shortstops in the system. apart from García.
Soon, however, Cruz will enter the minors and attempt to add himself to that list. Maybe he’ll jump over the others. The Nationals paid him as if he could.