Nationals Sign OF Rick Ankiel, Seven Others

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, December 20, 2010 | , , , | 9 comments »

--Updated 4:07 pm.  Thanks to reader Todd Boss for the reminder, the Nats apparently need to clear three spots on the 40-man due to the Chien-Ming Wang signing.
-----

The Washington Nationals signed 31-year old outfielder Rick Ankiel to a one-year, $1.5 million contract.  According to Nats Insider, the deal also includes $1.25 million in performance bonuses.

Ankiel, very famously, came up as a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, lost the ability to control his pitches, and reinvented himself as an outfielder.  He spent three years in the minors before re-debuting in 2007, at the age of 27.  His best year was in 2008, hitting .264/.337/.506 with 25 homers and 71 RBIs in 463 plate appearances for Tony LaRussa's Cardinals.

He's been terrible the last two seasons at the plate, putting up OPS+ of 77 in 2009 and 93 in 2010, between Kansas City and Atlanta.

He is considered a good fielder with a great arm.  He has primarily played center field in his career, and he could challenge for playing time in left field as well.

Ankiel is not an answer to any of the Nationals most pressing questions, but could come in and show either in left or center field.  But it's an indictment of the talent at the big league level at those positions that GM Mike Rizzo deems Ankiel an alternative to what's already here.  Ankiel has never shown the ability to reach base consistently and his power has disappeared since that 25 homer season.

If this move is to try to catch lightning in a bottle, great.  If it's seen as a viable alternative, or Ankiel gets more playing time than the occasional pinch-hit off the bench and defensive replacement, it spells trouble. 

The Nats also announced the signing of seven players other players, six to minor league contracts and one to a big league contract.

The Major League contract goes to Ryan Mattheus, a 27-year old swing man acquired in the Joe Beimel trade last season.  He went 1-1 with a 0.79 ERA in 10 games/four starts last season with the Nationals' Gulf Coast League team and New York-Penn League affiliates in his first action since undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in July 2009.

Mattheus has not appeared in a Major League game, and it's baffling that the Nationals see enough in him to give him a Major League contract at this point in his career.

The six that signed minor league deals with invites to spring training are: RPs Joe Bisenius and Tim Wood, 1B Michael Aubrey, INF Brian Bixler and OFs Jeff Frazier and Jonathan Van Every.  All have big league experience and are 28-years old or older.

With Ankiel and Mattheus getting big league deals, two players will have to be removed from the 40-man roster to make room for the new acquisitions.

9 comments

  1. Todd Boss // December 20, 2010 at 4:02 PM  

    If Mattheus is indeed a major league contract, then i have us needing to clear THREE spots. Where am I wrong here?

    16 Starters: LHernandez, Zimmermann, Lannan, Marquis, Maya, Stammen, Detwiler, Chico, Martis, Mock, Thompson,
    Martin, Strasburg, Atilano, Broderick, Wang

    11 Relievers: Burnett, Slaten, Clippard, Storen, Severino, Balester, Carr, Kimball, ERamirez, HRodriguez, Mattheus

    3 catchers: IRodriguez, Ramos, Flores

    5 infielders: Desmond, RZimmerman, AGonzalez, Espinosa, Marrero

    8 outfielders: Bernadina, Morgan, Morse, Maxwell, Harper, Werth, CBrown, Ankiel

    Thats 43. I'm assuming that Wang, Ankiel and (now reportedly) Mattheus were major league deals. I'm also assuming that both guys in the Willingham trade are 40-man spots too.

    I miss natsfarm :-)

  2. Dave Nichols // December 20, 2010 at 4:06 PM  

    You're right. I forgot about Wang. The Nats need to clear three spots off the 40-man. Thanks.

  3. Todd Boss // December 20, 2010 at 4:11 PM  

    Good bye JD Martin, Aaron Thompson and Justin Maxwell.

  4. Souldrummer // December 20, 2010 at 5:13 PM  

    I think Maxwell gets at least an invite to spring training. If we gave Wily Taveras a roster spot last year out of camp, it's possible Maxwell could get a spot. It's mystifying to me why he's not playing Winter Ball, though. Seems like he has stuff to work on.

  5. Souldrummer // December 20, 2010 at 5:14 PM  

    @Todd Boss
    We all miss Brian, and I hope he contributes to the comments on the nationalsprospects and elsewhere once his school year is up.

  6. Dave Nichols // December 20, 2010 at 5:28 PM  

    As I mentioned somewhere eariler in the week, I think Chico, Atilano and Severino are also in danger of losing 40-man spots at this point.

    And yeah, I miss NFA too.

  7. Chris G // December 20, 2010 at 5:57 PM  

    They can put Strasburg back on the 60-day DL at some point. I'm just not sure when they can do it.

  8. The Herndon Kid // December 21, 2010 at 12:15 PM  

    @SD - Didn't Maxwell have TJ surgery in October? That's probably why he isn't in Winter Ball.

  9. Dave Nichols // December 21, 2010 at 1:43 PM  

    Kid: yup, the mystery TJ surgery for an outfielder. he should be ready for spring training.