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Nats sign 1st significant Latin prospect in years

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Nats sign 1st significant Latin prospect in years

The Nationals have signed Dominican outfielder Juan Soto to a $1.5 million bonus, the organization's first international signing of any significant consequence since the notorious Esmailyn Gonzalez fiasco nearly a decade ago.

The signing has not been formally announced yet, but it was confirmed by a club source. MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez first reported the deal.

Soto, 16, is a natural right fielder with a "smooth lefty cut and projectable frame with above average power potential," according to a Fangraphs scouting report. He was rated the 13th-best prospect in this year's international class, according to Baseball America, 22nd by MLB.com.

The signing (which occurred on the annual July 2 date when international players become eligible) is particularly notable for the Nationals, who have completely shied away from major international signings since the Gonzalez case rocked the organization six years ago.

The Nationals signed a Dominican shortstop who claimed to be a 16-year-old named Esmailyn Gonzalez on July 2, 2006, handing him a club-record bonus of $1.4 million. Three years later, the organization learned Gonzalez had lied about his age and identity; he actually was four years older than he claimed and was named Carlos Alvarez.

That revelation, along with inquiries into allegations of part of the bonus money being skimmed by team officials, led to the firing of special assistant Jose Rijo and director of Dominican operations Jose Baez in February 2009. General manager Jim Bowden resigned three days later, ultimately paving the way for Mike Rizzo to take over the Nationals' baseball operations department.

After being burned so publicly by the Gonzalez scandal, the Nationals stayed almost entirely out of the international market since, signing mostly less-touted prospects for far less money. Some of those players have developed into top organizational prospects, most notably infielder Wilmer Difo and right-hander Reynoldo Lopez.

Thursday's signing of Soto to a new club record bonus suggests the franchise finally is comfortable delving back into the prominent international market.

MORE NATIONALS: Nats lineup goes silent in loss to Braves

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Nationals to wear throwback Expos signature powder blues on July 6

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Nationals to wear throwback Expos signature powder blues on July 6

Bring out the powder blues!

In the decade and a half since the Nationals franchise relocated from Montreal to Washington, D.C. in 2005, the Nationals have only worn throwback uniforms honoring the Washington Senators, who played in the Nation's Capitol from 1901-1960 before the franchise moved to Minnesota and became the current Minnesota Twins. They have not once worn any Expos throwbacks.

That all changes on July 6, when the Nationals will sport the signature Montreal Expos powder blue uniforms against the Kansas City Royals as the Nationals celebrate the franchise's 50th anniversary, according to the Washington Post.

The uniform features powder blue jerseys and pants, with the tri-color red, white, and blue signature Expos cap.

The Royals will also be donning throwback uniforms from their inaugural 1969 season, taking the field in their original road grey uniforms with a cursive "Kansas City" across their chest in Royal blue.

The Nationals are honoring the Expos in more ways than just sporting their old uniforms. Nationals Park will also be going through a makeover, as the Expos 'M' will replace the Nationals 'Curly W' across the park for the afternoon. Additionally, concessions will offer traditional Canadian food, such as poutine, Montreal smoked brisket sandwiches and more. 

Expos legend Vladimir Guerrero will also be in attendance. Other members of the Nationals, such as manager Dave Martinez, third base coach Bob Henley, and MASN broadcaster F.P. Santangelo will be honored for their contributions to the Expos as well.

July 6 should be an exciting day at Nationals Park.

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Mike Rizzo: Max Scherzer's season performance thus far is 'historical'

Mike Rizzo: Max Scherzer's season performance thus far is 'historical'

It's no secret that Max Scherzer has been having the best month of his career. As whispers of a fourth Cy Young begin following his commanding starts this season, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo joined the chorus.

"We're seeing something from a major league pitcher that we’re very fortunate because we get to see this every fifth day and this is historical stuff," Rizzo said on The Sports Junkies Wednesday. "This is one of the great pitchers of our time and a hall of fame caliber guy and a guy who leaves it on the mound each and every day."

To add to his dominant June, Scherzer allowed only one run and recorded 10 strikeouts over eight innings in the Nationals' 6-1 win over the Miami Marlins Tuesday night.

"He wills himself to win and he wills himself to go the extra inning, the extra pitch," Rizzo said.

Many are calling Scherzer's consistent greatness this month the most dominant time of his career. According to NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas, the only month in his career that comes close to his June 2019 dominance is June 2017, when Scherzer boasted a 0.99 ERA, pitched 36 ⅓ innings, recorded 51 strikeouts, six walks, and a 0.55 WHIP. This June, Scherzer has more strikeouts and a lower ERA.

"He's one of the best pitchers in the league," Rizzo said. "Day in and day out, start in and start out, he gives you an opportunity to win, he gives you his best, he leaves everything on the mound each and every time."

Scherzer has one more start left this month against the Detroit Tigers, the three-day series in Detroit beginning Friday. Until then, Scherzer can rest his arm with two remaining games in the three-game series with the Marlins Wednesday and Thursday at 7:10 p.m.

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