The Nationals signed 16-year-old shortstop Armando Cruz out of the Dominican Republic with a $3.9 million bonus Friday to highlight their 2021 international prospect class, according to a source familiar with negotiations.
Cruz, who turns 17 on Saturday, is the fifth-ranked player overall in this year’s class by MLB Pipeline. He’s heralded as perhaps the best overall defensive player in his age group, profiling as a toolsy infielder with good range and with strong footwork. Standing at 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, Cruz doesn’t project to have a ton of home run power but has quick hands that allow him to barrel up the baseball.
Washington’s $3.9 million bonus ties fellow infield prospect Yasel Antuna for the franchise record for the highest guarantee handed out by the organization to an international prospect, surpassing names such as Juan Soto and Luis García. The Nationals had $5,348,000 million international bonus pool money to spend during the signing period that began Friday and extends until Dec. 15.
Cruz was pictured signing his contract with the Nationals on Friday wearing a 2019 World Series ring and donning a red jersey.
The Nationals will insert Cruz into a farm system that has seen a steady stream of talent from the Dominican Republic. Soto and García highlight their successes of recent years while Antuna was added to the club’s 40-man roster this offseason and could see the majors soon. Washington has a training academy in the DR that saw an overhaul following the fallout of the “Smiley” Gonzalez scandal in 2009 but has since developed into one of the more successful programs in MLB.
While it will likely be several years before Cruz has the chance to play at Nationals Park, the club’s significant financial commitment to him represents its belief in what he’s capable of developing into.