Quick Hits: International Signings, Astros, Watson, Nationals

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Though much of the offseason baseball calendar has been shuttered by the lockout, the next international signing period will still open as scheduled on January 15.  This will technically be the 2021-22 signing window, as both this upcoming signing period and last year’s period were pushed back from their normal July 2 date due to the pandemic.  Since many of the eligible international players long ago entered into unofficial agreements with their future teams, there isn’t much mystery about the landing spots or even the signing bonuses for these top amateur.  As such, Baseball America’s Ben Badler is able to rank the top 50 players in the market by their expected signing bonuses in his preview of the 2021-22 int’l market.

Cuban outfielder Cristian Vaquero leads the way, as the 16-year-old has already been linked to the Nationals.  The 16-year-old is a bit of a work in progress at the plate, as Badler notes that Vaquero only somewhat recently became a switch-hitter rather than a pure left-handed hitter, though he does swing well from the left side.  As for glovework, Vaquero is “a dynamic center fielder with plus speed, a strong arm and good defensive instincts for his age.”

More from around baseball…

  • “I think bringing back [Justin] Verlander is probably going to go down as the Astros’ biggest move of the offseason,” The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan writes as part of a reader mailbag.  The exception might be if a notable remaining free agent was open to the type of short-term, high-average-annual-value contract the Astros seemingly prefer, yet barring such a move, it doesn’t seem like Houston would pivot towards a longer-term deal.  To that same end, this would seemingly indicate that the Astros won’t pursue Trevor Story or a reunion with Carlos Correa, and instead head into 2022 entrusting rookie Jeremy Pena with at least a share of the regular shortstop job.  Though there’s some obvious risk involved, Kaplan notes that the Astros tried this same tactic last season when George Springer left in free agency, and the club found adequate in-house center field replacements in Myles Straw, Chas McCormick, and Jake Meyers (Houston even had enough depth at the position to deal Straw at the trade deadline).  The Astros could acquire a lower-tier veteran shortstop to provide some extra backing for Pena and utilityman Aledmys Diaz.
  • The Nationals have spent the last several months looking to overhaul their player development practices, and they went in-house to elevate De Jon Watson to the role of director of the player development department.  In a two-part interview with The Athletic’s Maria Torres (part one, part two), Watson discusses the many steps both already made and in the works, plus he also shares his thought on some of the Nats’ most interesting prospects.

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