Major league coup: Nats sign Cuban defector Yunieski Maya.

Photo via ESPN-Deportes

The Washington Nationals have had trouble in the past signing international players, but today reports indicate they have signed Cuban defector Yunieski Maya

General Manager Mike Rizzo would not confirm or deny the report, though had good things to say about the 28-year-old right-hander to Bill Ladson of MLB.com

“He is battle-tested and is seasoned. We have seen him play in many tournaments over the years, so we feel we know him as well as anybody. He is a guy who has pitched a lot and knows his craft.

“If we get him, we have to see where he is at. We have seen him pitch quite a bit in the Dominican. We had guys monitoring [him] quite closely. It will be like any new pitcher we acquire. He goes to [the team’s Spring Training complex in] Viera, Fla., and we see where he is at.”

The report says Maya will become a National once he receives a working visa and passes a physical. He could even be in the embattled Washington rotation by the end of this season.

Maya had been pursued by the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and Mets before ultimately signing with the Nationals.

The signing is a big step up for the organization after the Smiley Gonzalez fiasco under Jim Bowden last year. After that, the Nationals overhauled the international scouting program by hiring Johnny DiPuglia from the Red Sox and reworking their foundation in the Dominican Republic. Maya also becomes the 32nd international signing by the Nationals this year.

This one move alone will not solve all the problems the Nationals have faced, though it is a step in the right direction for the young organization.

“He’s a terrific, poised, capable, major league-caliber pitcher,” Rizzo said. “Some of the most successful organizations would like to sign him and put him directly into their rotation. We’re one of them.”

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