A top Washington Nationals prospect and recipient of the largest international signing bonus in team history is not who he appeared to be. Esmailyn Gonzalez, who is listed as 19 years old on the team's roster, is actually 23-year-old Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo, four sources have told SI.com.
The Nationals, owned by the Lerner family, gave the shortstop from the Dominican Republic a $1.4 million signing bonus on July 2, 2006, and trumpeted his arrival as a sign of their commitment to acquiring top-tier talent. (Players from Latin America are not subject to the draft and can sign with the team of their choice.) "This signing is symbolic of the Lerner family's and incoming club president Stan Kasten's pledge to become an industry leader in scouting and player development,'' Washington general manager Jim Bowden said at the time of the deal.
Gonzalez's signing, however, immediately drew suspicion from baseball insiders. There was considerable skepticism about the team's description of him as a five-tool player. "He doesn't run all that well, and has an average arm," an executive with another team said this summer.
...Nationals representatives, Rijo and Vizcaino did not return calls from SI.com requesting comment. Kasten and Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney declined to comment. Bowden and Rijo have previously denied any financial improprieties in the Gonzalez case.