Feds investigating Nats GM Bowden

Feds investigating Nats GM Bowden

VIERA, Fla. -- SI.com reported Sunday night that a federal investigation into the skimming of signing bonuses given to Latin American baseball prospects is examining the role of Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden.

SI.com said that the investigators are looking as far back as 1994. Bowden was the general manager of the Reds from 1992 to 2003.

The Web site reported that former Latin American scout Jorge Oquendo links the FBI's investigations of Bowden and his special assistant, Jose Rijo, to that of former White Sox senior director of player personnel David Wilder, who was dismissed for allegedly pocketing money earmarked for player signing bonuses. Oquendo worked for Wilder and Bowden.

Oquendo denied any wrongdoing or dealing with Bowden on a regular basis.

"[Bowden] didn't even know who I was," Oquendo told SI.com. Oquendo worked for the Reds under Bowden in 1994, as well as with the Reds from 2000 through 2003.

Bowden and Nationals team president Stan Kasten were not available for comment.

The Nationals have been in the spotlight since early last week after SI.com reported 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 the Nationals had listed the 23-year-old as being 19. The Nationals and Major League Baseball's department of investigation are reviewing the situation. Bowden has been ordered by Kasten not to talk about the case.

Because of the Lugo situation, Rijo decided to take a leave of absence Saturday because he said he doesn't want to be a distraction to the team and wants to be with his ailing mother in the Dominican Republic.

Discussions about Rijo's leave started on Friday. Rijo has been linked to Lugo, who received a $1.4 million signing bonus from the Nationals in 2006.

SI.com reported that the negotiations for Lugo 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 Rijo and Jose Baez, the Nationals' director of Dominican operations.

Last July, Bowden and Rijo were investigated by federal investigators and MLB for their possible involvement in a financial scandal involving the signing of players from the Dominican Republic. Both Bowden and Rijo have said they are innocent.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.