Kasten angered by prospect situation
Nationals learn Gonzalez lied about age, name; he's 23, not 19
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals president Stan Kasten confirmed in a conference call on Wednesday that shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez, one of the best prospects in the organization, falsified his name and age.
Gonzalez's real name is Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo and he is 23 years old. The Nationals had listed him as 19. SI.com was the first to report the story late Tuesday night.
Kasten didn't know what to call Gonzalez when he talked to the media, so he referred to him as the "player to be named later." Kasten said it took Major League Baseball's department of investigations the past six months to confirm Gonzalez's real age.
Gonzalez received a $1.4 million signing bonus from Washington on July 2, 2006. At the time, the signing of Gonzalez was considered significant for the Nationals because it demonstrated that they intended to compete with the Braves, Yankees and Red Sox for the best talent in Latin America.
"His birthday is November 1985," Kasten said. "To say I'm disappointed doesn't begin to describe how I feel. I'm angry, I'm very angry. We have been defrauded.
"Make no mistake, this wasn't a college kid with a fake ID that would come and do this. This was a deliberate, meditated fraud with a lot more to this story. We are going to get to the bottom of this. There were many, many people involved in this premeditated fraud."
Kasten wouldn't say who was involved in the alleged fraud, but he said the Nationals and Major League Baseball will continue to investigate the situation. He indicated, however, that there are possible bribes, falsified hospital and school documents and relatives of the infielder who had possibly changed their identities.
"There were really elaborate stuff and I have to give MLB's department of investigations a lot of credit for finally cracking through this," Kasten said. "I can assure you, this will have serious repercussions. I have people examining all possible avenues and recourse with regard to legal and financial concerns."
Kasten said he started to hear rumors shortly after Gonzalez was signed.
SI.com reported that the negotiations were handled by Basilio Vizcaino, who helps prepare young players in hopes that they will eventually sign big Major League deals and reward him with a percentage of their signing bonus.
Vizcaino is a close friend of Jose Rijo, the special assistant to general manager Jim Bowden, and Jose Baez, the Nationals' director of Dominican operations. The signing had already raised red flags with the FBI and MLB's department of investigations.
Last July, Bowden and Rijo were being investigated by federal investigators and Major League Baseball for their possible involvement in a financial scandal involving the signing of players from the Dominican Republic.
Bowden and Rijo could face fraud charges. According to the ESPN.com, Bowden and Rijo are under suspicion for skimming money allocated for Dominican prospects.
At the time, Bowden said he and Rijo did nothing wrong and acknowledged that he spoke to the FBI in person. Bowden declined to say when the meeting took place.
Bowden said the investigators did not ask him if he or Rijo were involved in anything illegal, and he expects every club in baseball to be talking to the investigators.
"Oh, no, there is no wrongdoing," Bowden said back in July. "I met with the FBI investigators, and I think there are many people throughout baseball that are going to be talking to the FBI and Major League Baseball, trying to get all the information out there for the problems that exist over there."
Gonzalez's future with the Nationals is up in the air. He is scheduled to report to camp on March 13 and participate in the full-squad workouts two days later. Gonzalez already has secured a new passport and is close to receiving his work visa.
Kasten gave no indication if the Nationals would try to recoup the signing bonus given to Gonzalez.
"Do I know what his future holds as a baseball player? I don't," Kasten said. "I will say he will remain a prospect, but I would say he is a very different kind of prospect today. I'm just not going to say what's going to happen to him in his career just yet."
Kasten has been through age discrepancy with a player in the past. In 2002, when Kasten was with the Braves, it was announced that shortstop Rafael Furcal was 23, not 21 as listed in the media guide. Atlanta kept Furcal, who became an All-Star the next year.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.