An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Nievy Pilier signed for the Nationals’ most expensive bonus given to a Latin American teen since 2006. The language within the post has been changed to reflect the correct information.
The Nationals made their latest expensive splash in Latin America as they recover from the scandal that once rocked their international operations, recently signing 16-year-old Dominican third baseman Neivy Pilier to a $225,000 signing bonus, a Nationals official confirmed.
Pilier’s bonus, first reported by Baseball America, is one of the richest the Nationals have given a Latin American teen since they handed $1.4 million to a 16-year-old shortstop named Esmailyn Gonzalez in 2006. Gonzalez turned out to be a 19-year-old named Carlos Alvarez, and the humiliating aftermath led to the ouster in 2009 of General Manager Jim Bowden and the revamping of the Nationals’ entire operation in the Dominican Republic.
Pilier’s signing is the latest step in the Nationals’ reasserting themselves in Latin America, joining the $385,000 bonus they gave to center fielder Luis Guzman this July. Director of international scouting Johnny DiPuglia and his staff have moved the Nationals’ operation into a new facility in the Dominican and gained more and more trust from Nationals’ ownership to spend on players.
The latest is Pilier, who according to Baseball America has a strong arm and a bat that has the potential for power. Pilier was trained by Christian Garcia, a powerful talent broker in the Dominican. Garcia also trained catcher Raudy Reed and outfielder Randy Novas, two players the Nationals signed in January 2011 for $130,000 and $150,000, respectively.
The Nationals believe they made a strong deal in signing Pilier, who still must pass through the standard and rigorous MLB investigation. This summer, the Nationals’ official said, Pilier asked other teams for more than $1 million. But Pilier never signed, and the Nationals eventually landed him at a discount.
As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, teams may spend no more than $2.9 million per year on international amateur free agents. Between the Nationals’ improvements in the Dominican and the spending cap, they could again begin competing in a market in which they have lagged behind.