As a fan, one of the few disappointments about the Washington Nationals’ current player development process is that they have not been terribly active in the market for International Free Agents (IFAs). They started out in the IFA arena by getting burned signing supposed 16-year old shortstop “Smiley” Gonzalez, nee Carlos Alvarez, out of the Dominican Republic back in 2006, only to later find out that rather being barely old enough to drive, he was actually nearly old enough to vote. That particular blunder ultimately cost former GM Jim “Leatherpants” Bowden his job (hey, I didn’t say it was ALL bad), and may have made the organization a little gun shy.
In 2010, the Nats made their one “big” IFA move under the Mike Rizzo regime, signing Cuban defector Yunesky Maya to a 4 year/$8 million deal after missing out on the much higher priced (and far more talented) Cuban flamethrower, Adrolis Chapman. Maya, fans were assured, could be another Livan Hernandez, and the Nats even brought Livan back into the fold around that same time, possibly in part to be a mentor for his fellow defector. Unfortunately, Maya never worked out either. Given several chances to crack the big squad, he posted an ugly 5.80 ERA in just 59 innings over parts of three seasons. As his atrocious 1.576 WHIP would indicate, Maya did little more in his brief time than throw batting practice to the opposition.
Since then, the Nats have been pretty quiet on the IFA market. They maintain a team in the Dominican Summer League (DSL) where they field Latin American signees–most of whom receive only small bonuses–hoping to find the proverbial needle in the haystack while other teams are putting out eight and nine figure financial commitments for the likes of instant All Stars Yu Darvish, Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka.
Of the recent Nats DSL “graduates” now playing stateside, Eury Perez has been the most accomplished. Signed as a 17-year old in 2007, Perez sports what appears to an impressive .305 career minor league batting average to go along with 268 stolen bases while playing mostly centerfield in eight seasons. Look more closely, however, and you’ll see a player without much power (20 HRs in those eight seasons) who rarely walks. In other words, a light hitter whose lack of command of the strike zone will likely keep him from getting on base much at the MLB level, thereby negating his biggest weapon: his speed. Indeed, after being called up each of the past two Septembers, Perez managed only two singles in 13 at bats.
At any rate, suddenly blessed with the emergence of a couple of superior young MLB-ready outfield prospects in Michael Taylor and Steve Souza, the Nats evidentially decided that despite only being 24-years old, former prospect Perez is now expendable. This was not completely unexpected, as he would have been out of minor league options next year and would have had to make the major league roster out of spring training or be DFA’ed at that time.
Either way, some other team will almost certainly pick him up, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Perez play a few years elsewhere as a reserve, being used primarily as a pinch runner and late inning defensive replacement. This is what happens when your team finally gets good–it’s your roster expendables who get plucked away rather than you being the one doing the scavenging.
As for Pedro Florimon, he was the Twins Opening Day shortstop this year, but got demoted after batting a horrific .092 in 33 games. Since he’s already 27, with a career average of .204 in 624 at bats, Florimon represents little more than middle infield depth for an organization that currently lacks MLB-ready prospects in that area.