Monday, December 20, 2010

Nats sign Rick Ankiel

Updated at 11:58 a.m.

The Nationals have signed outfielder Rick Ankiel to a one-year, $1.5 million contract, a club source confirmed this morning.

Ankiel, the former Cardinals phenom whose pitching career flamed out nearly a decade ago, has resurrected himself as an outfielder and in 2008 hit 25 homers with 71 RBI for St. Louis. He struggled this season, though, hitting just .232 with six homers and 34 RBI in 74 combined games with the Royals and Braves.

The 31-year-old, however, is a gifted defensive player with a strong arm and could challenge either center fielder Nyjer Morgan or left fielder Roger Bernadina for playing time next spring.

Ankiel's contract, which won't become official until he takes a physical, includes $1.25 million in performance bonuses.

A second-round pick in the 1997 draft, Ankiel sped through the Cardinals' farm system and made his big-league debut two years later at 19. The left-hander went 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA in 30 starts in 2000 and was poised to become a mainstay in St. Louis' rotation for years to come. But he suffered from a sudden and inexplicable inability to throw the ball anywhere near the plate during the 2000 postseason -- he issued 11 walks and nine wild pitches in only four innings -- and when his control woes continued the following spring, his pitching career came to an abrupt end.

By 2007, Ankiel had made the full conversion to the outfield and battled his way back onto the Cardinals' big-league roster, homering in his first game. Following that season, he admitted using human growth hormone on the advice of doctors; Major League Baseball cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Ankiel was a regular in the St. Louis outfield for two full seasons and posted an .843 OPS in 2008. He became a free agent after the 2009 season and signed with the Royals for $3.25 million, though he played in 27 games for Kansas City due to a quadriceps injury. He was traded along with reliever Kyle Farnsworth to the Braves on July 31 and proceeded to hit .210 with two homers and nine RBI in 47 games.

Once the Ankiel signing becomes official, the Nationals will need to remove a player from their 40-man roster. They also need to remove someone from the 40-man because of last week's re-signing of Chien-Ming Wang.

78 comments:

BQ said...

I can only see him start against righty starters. His numbers against southpaws are horrible to say the least. He could also be used as defensive substitute late in the game I guess. Definitely not someone who can start for us everyday.

Cwj said...

Before all the sarcastic posts start pouring in, just wanted to say I'm glad the Nats are putting some pressure on Nyjer Morgan and Bernadina.

Pilchard said...

Does this put the Nats roster at 40 or did they have to make a corresponding waiver move?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Plush better make sure he starts 2011 with his head screwed on straight, because this sounds like a potential substitution for him. Sacrifice some potential offense (relatively speaking) for some potential defense and its largely a wash, so Tony P. better see this as his very short leash going forward.

JD said...

Not being sarcastic; but Ankiel is no better than a 4th outfielder and he is nothing special defensively either.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Cwj.... just like you, I'm waiting for JayB's blast at management again.

I agree that anything pressuring Morgan is a good move.

Stew Magnuson said...

The Nats need more depth in the outfield positions. It didn't cost them a lot to sign him. Nothing wrong with having a couple fourth outfielder types on the bench or in AAA.

Bowdenball said...

I think they did it to make Colin Balester feel better about his control issues.

BinM said...

I'm with Cjw on this one. Ankiel might push Morgan & Bernadina a little for playing time, and would be a plus bat off the bench. Not a great move, but not a bad one either.

PAY TO PLAY said...

Finally, and I say finally as I think this spells the end of the JMaxwell error, I mean era.

After trading Willingham, I was thinking there was still a roster spot waiting for Maxwell.

Chalk up another Bora$ client on Rizzo's roster! I think Rizzo has definitely earned an invite to The Boras Corporation Xmas Party.

HHover said...

I'd love to see somebody pressure Morgan to shape up, but that's apparently not the signal the Nats are sending--Ladson says that Ankiel will compete for the LF job with Bernie. Too bad.

Dizzy_Dean said...

I think this is a good move.

It solidifies the bench and gives you a solid left handed hitter in the 5 or 6 hole against starting RHP.

Defensively, he's also solid, not great, but solid. Bernie's better overall, but RA has a cannon of an arm. He's also good insurance if one of the triumvirate of Morse/Bernie/Morgan doesn't work or goes down due to injury.

It'a always good to have a deep bench.

NatsJack in Florida said...

HHover.... it's Ladson... Ankiel is a good defensive CF with some pop. This may have more to do with Benandina leaving winter ball after only 7 games.

Julian Asange said...

I have it on good sources that Ankiel will be resurrected as a starting pitcher next season and challenge for the number one starter slot. Apparently the control issues are fixed.

Steve M. said...

HHover, seriously? You take Ladson's analysis on this one?

I am thinking this gives Rizzo a little more trade bait now too.

Don't forget Corey Brown is lurking. I don't see Corey Brown starting out the season on the 25 man but I could see him as a callup if Nyjer is Nyjer of 2010.

All in all, good move as the Nats needed 1 more in the mix for depth and almost creating a certainty of not having Justin Maxwell as the first option off of the bench.

Todd Boss said...

The move is definitely in line with Rizzo's thinking: get a plus defender to have available. AND, get a lefty hitter for a righty-heavy lineup.

Except! I don't think Ankiel is really that good of a defender. Look at his uzr rankings: http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1142&position=OF#fielding

Maybe in left field he's a plus defender, but his center field range has always been negative. Seems like his defensive abilities are more based on reputation than performance. Not that this isn't constantly the case in baseball (see Jeter, Derek and his inexplicable gold glove in 2010).

I'm all for pushing our outfielder core in the spring, but if Ankiel pushes Morse to the minors then I don't get the move. I have been advocating finding a replacement for Morgan in center and perhaps Ankiel is that person.

Anonymous said...

I like this move for the reasons stated above: putting pressure on Morgan and getting a good defensive outfielder with a decent bat (when used properly). This goes along with the move to make the Nats more athletic and improve their defense. Good move.
fpcsteve

natscan reduxit said...

... maybe the Nats want him to resurrect his pitching career. Oops, it looks like Julian already picked up on that one.

... but history has showed the kind of switch Rick has made can be done. Hey, if it worked for George Herman Ruth, why not for Rick Ankiel?

Go Nats!

PAY TO PLAY said...

Now that the Nats have added 2 more lefty bats to the roster in the last week, could they go to Derrek Lee at 1st base?

CF Nyjer
SS Desmond
3B ZIM
1B D. Lee
RF Werth
LF BAM (Platoon of Bernadina, Ankiel, Morse)
2B Espinosa
C Pudge/Ramos

erocks33 said...

@Julian Asange -- that was funny!

Why do I think that this is a precursor to the Nats signing Derrek Lee now? Lee would be the everyday 1B, and the Nats would then platoon Morse (R) and Ankiel (L) in left. This would then pit Bernadina and Morgan in a cage match/fight to the death to take over the everyday CF/leadoff spot down in Viera ...

Positively Half St. said...

Might Maxwell be removed from the 40-man roster? Who else might take the fall?

Pilchard said...

This move will not push Morse to the minors. Ankiel is a left handed batter that struggles against LHPs; Morse murders lefthanders. They are complementary players.

joemktg said...

Do the Nats have the reputation as being the last stop/last chance before you're shown the door? Do the players, after going to the Nats, think "OMG if I don't turn this around I'm toast"?

Natstown = Island of Misfit Toys?

Sunderland said...

I don't see this as adding a left handed bat to the lineup. Yeah, he's left handed, but if he hits, it will either be in Nyjer's spot or Bernie's spot, and they're both lefties.

"a solid left handed hitter in the 5 or 6 hole"

Get serious. Ankiel is not a middle of the order hitter. He struck out in 33+% of his AB's last year! He's a pinch hitter, late inning defensive replacement.
We need a left handed power bat. If Ankiel is it, we're in trouble.

This will put very little pressure on Nyjer, because the only way this offense works is with Nyjer leading off. We have no one else who could.

Anonymous said...

Still seems like a trade is still in the offing ... the Grienke trade would have cleared some spots on the 40-man and 25-man (and potentially left some glaring holes as well) ... still seems like Rizzo has multiple poles in the fire to carry so many on the 40-man. Have to wonder about Marerro a younger right handed first base fielder like Adam Dunn? He should be a part of a trade package to an AL team shouldn't he?

Anonymous said...

no pirates

sec3mysofa said...

A lefty on the bench with enough power to keep the other side's attention, and can credibly be left in games late, is a good addition, at this price. I've been wondering if they would do this

Anonymous said...

I think Ankiel replaces Willie Harris. Like Ankiel Harris is also a left handed hitter. If anyone has been "shown the door" it looks to me like its Willie Harris. He looks like "toast" at this point if the Nats pick Ankiel over Harris. I suspect Ankiel is the better fielder in the outfield than Harris at this point. A new guy for good ol' double switch Riggleman to replace Morse with after he hits two home runs. And someone who won't chafe at being a bench player.

Anonymous said...

"Do the Nats have the reputation as being the last stop/last chance before you're shown the door? Do the players, after going to the Nats, think "OMG if I don't turn this around I'm toast"?"

Scott Olsen, Brian Bruney, Joel Peralta and Joe Beimel (among others) would probably disagree with that statement.

Anonymous said...

Still wondering if they won't make another run at their boy Justin Upton in AZ. Imagine an outfield with Harper, Werth, and Upton? Might make you forget about the pitching woes until they can develop from within? Then again perhaps not?

Mark said...

Bobby Cox's last win was on that big splash HR of Ankiel's in the 9th inning in San Fran.

I like the move and like PayToPlay's thoughts.

Worse case is Ankiel will be a good guy off the bench!

Anonymous said...

"Scott Olsen, Brian Bruney, Joel Peralta and Joe Beimel (among others) would probably disagree with that statement."

There's Matt Capps. Josh Willingham, Adam Dunn, and newly signed with the Inidans Austin Kearns. There's FLOP?

Anonymous said...

The only negative is if Ankiel ends up playing every day and pushes Morse to the bench. If Ankiel is a bench player, then this move is acceptable. If Riggles makes Ankiel a starter and talks about intangibles then there are a lot of problems on this team. I still see a 90-100 loss team even if Ankiel is on the bench. Anyone see different?

sec3 said...

"Scott Olsen, Brian Bruney, Joel Peralta and Joe Beimel (among others) would probably disagree with that statement."

"There's Matt Capps. Josh Willingham, Adam Dunn, and newly signed with the Inidans Austin Kearns. There's FLOP?"

Not to mention Chad Cordero, Shawn Hill, Jose Guillen, Cristian Guzman, ...

Wally said...

Hard to get very excited either way on this. Seems like a cost effective possibility for the bench, and if he gets more than 200 ABs, we are probably having a lot of OF problems. i also agree with the comments that the stats do not show him as above average defensively, or even average, for that matter. I think that he has been negative on UZR every year he played.

Also hard to believe they keep both Ankiel and Stairs. But it was cheap, he has major league experience and its another spring training option. I am fine with it.

raymitten said...

I like it. No matter what Ladson says, I think Ankiel is here to push Nyjer Morgan. Last year he chose the Royals over the Nats because the Royals would let him play center. If he replaces Willie Harris' roster spot, how can anyone complain?

The Great Unwashed said...

My first thought after reading this headline was that Mike Morse will be playing first base.

Ballinonabudget said...

The 40-man roster has 42 names on it after the signings of Wang and Ankiel and the Willingham trade. Who gets the boot?

I think Ankiel takes Maxwell's spot. He's had enough chances. I think Atahualpa Severino and Aaron Thompson also have to be near the top of the list for first cuts.

Will said...

Mark, correct me if I'm wrong, but by adding Brown and Rodriguez for Willingham, we're already at 41 men on the 40 man roster. Ankiel puts us 2 players over the limit.

Ankiel is a terribly unexciting signing. He's progressively gotten worse each year with his bat. His power has disappeared, and he's bad defensively. So why again are we paying this guy $1.5mil? Seems like a waste to me.

I'd rather keep useless pitching fodder like Atilano, Martis or Thompson on the roster than Ankiel.

sjm 308 said...

Agree with most posters that this is an ok move. Not great but certainly a better move then Kevin Mench. I join with others in thinking that Morgan will not be able to coast in spring training. I don't like the idea of Ankiel being an every day player but his 2008 season was a good one. I just want Nyjer to get on base, run the bases intelligently and make plays in CF. We know he can't throw but if he does those 3 things we will be better than last year.

I am in the minority here but I would not mind seeing Willie Harris back. He can play both infield and outfield and he is not a trouble maker. I don't want to see him back hitting under .200 but I think he could help us.

Go Nats!

Mark Zuckerman said...

Will: You are correct. The Wang and Ankiel signings mean the Nats need to remove two players from the 40-man. No official announcement from them yet who is getting removed.

Anonymous said...

I think Ankiel takes Maxwell's spot. He's had enough chances. I think Atahualpa Severino and Aaron Thompson also have to be near the top of the list for first cuts.

Or a trade is about to be executed. Perhaps the Grienke deal wasn't the only one they've been pursuing. There are other starting pitchers that might be available via trade other than Garza. Anibel Sanchez for one. Jonny Cueto and Homer Bailey. Carlos Zambrano because of his huge contract might be had for cheap from the Cubbies. But he weighs 260 and does not seem to be in great shape ... have to think Rizzo would pass on that.

PAY TO PLAY said...

When Ankiel was traded on July 31 last year to the Braves it was also noted that he had a right leg injury that hampered his year. These were some of the quotes:

"Ankiel's a tremendous outfielder, a great athlete," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "Hopefully he helps solidify things out there in center."

"I know he hasn't played much, but since he's been back, he's played well," manager Bobby Cox said. "He's great defensively. He's really, really good."


Coming from Bobby Cox 5 months ago, that says a lot. This is a low risk signing so not a big deal. Still like it better than the options of Willie Harris and Justin Maxwell.

Anonymous said...

Can Ankiel play first base????

N. Cognito said...

Steve M. said...
"Don't forget Corey Brown is lurking. I don't see Corey Brown starting out the season on the 25 man but I could see him as a callup if Nyjer is Nyjer of 2010."

Did the Nats complete a trade for Corey Brown? Because if they haven't (or don't), he'll be on the 25 man roster or head back to his original team.

Wally said...

MLBTR says that Pavano is down to us and Twins. I am not real excited about him, and hope they don't give him 3 years. Not sure why he is better than Blanton; 2/$17m left for Blanton, and they look like the same pitcher to me. Plus Blanton is younger. All depends on trade cost; if it is equal to the 3d rounder they lose for Pavano, seems like a no brainer.

Also rumored that Lee is looking for $10m; that seems extraordinarily high, but Pena got it so he probably will too. Would really like to see the Nats use Storen as primary bait for a 1B prospect like Alonso from Reds. I don't know if that is enough to get it done, but he would fit their profile better (LH, good D, 6 years of control).

Mark said...

I think Maxwell will be removed from the 40 man and my guess is Manny Acta is frothing at the mouth to get him to Cleveland for a reunion.

Acta is trying to channel his best Bowden in getting axed players from his old team which is why a Carmona trade wouldn't surprise me.

Steve M. said...

N. Cognito - Corey Brown was acquired from the A's in the Willingham trade.

Steve M. said...

Wally said...

Also rumored that Lee is looking for $10m; that seems extraordinarily high, but Pena got it so he probably will too. Would really like to see the Nats use Storen as primary bait for a 1B prospect like Alonso from Reds. I don't know if that is enough to get it done, but he would fit their profile better (LH, good D, 6 years of control).


I would hate to use Storen for trade bait on Alonso but that kid could be the 1st baseman of the future here.

N. Cognito said...

Steve M. said...
"N. Cognito - Corey Brown was acquired from the A's in the Willingham trade."

My bad. For some reason I was thinking he was one of the Rule 5's we picked up.
Thanks for the correction.
NC

markfd said...

I like this signing, this is the type of guy we have been lacking on the bench for a while, a guy who can play the field and hit with some pop. Nice move!

Anonymous said...

Still think the Nats are thinking of going all out for Prince Fielder. At 26 he would be like signing a Texiera.

Theophilus said...

This is all a left-right play. Having lost Dunn and decided LaRoche is over-priced (w/ which I am starting to agree), W. Harris being gone (blessedly) and being stuck w/ Derrek Lee (if that) in the 1B sweepstakes, they've stockpiled Ankiel and Stairs for some left-handed pop off the bench. That's it. Although they now own four players (Werth, Bernandina, Ankiel and Brown) I'd rather see in CF than Nigel Knucklehead.

Maybe people should stop focusing on who the Nats are acquiring and more on who they're going to get rid of. How many knuckleheads on the Phillies? Learn the concept of addition by subtraction. Case(s) in point, Dukes and Milledge. Apart from Morgan, there's no one on the likely 25-man roster, right now, that I feel the need to get rid of. But there are a couple of so-called starting pitchers that are getting close to being a waste of meal money.

Theophilus said...

God, please save us from Prince Fielder. Think about his Pops; think about George Scott; think about Mo Vaughan; think about John Mayberry; think about . . . Albert Haynesworth. If the guy wants mega-millions, make him a nose tackle.

JD said...

Willie Harris - .223 .336 .371 10HR 25 RBI's

0 WAR

Rick Ankiel - .232 .321 .389 6 HR's 31 RBIs

0.7 WAR

I don't see that this is a huge upgrade.

Nyjer Morgan's numbers last year were poor but somewhat better than both these guys.

JD said...

Theophilus,

A little racial bias maybe in your knuckle head definition?

Anonymous said...

This is a nice discussion in all.

But who is going to play 1B? They need to get that done.

Doc said...

I think that Rizzo loved rummage sale grab bags when he was a kid!

Steve M. said...

I love when Scott Bora$ comes on here as an Anonymous poster!

Anonymous said...
Still think the Nats are thinking of going all out for Prince Fielder. At 26 he would be like signing a Texiera.

alexva said...

According to MLBTR an MLB contract signing of Ryan Matheus. This means yet another roster spot needs to be cleared.

Steve M. said...

I think Matheus was signed to a Minor League contract only.

Anonymous said...

I saw Ankiel play with the Prince William Cannons when he started playing. Love the guy. Great Story. Too bad the nats will always be down by 6 runs by the first or second inning of every game.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Nope. Matheus was signed to a major league contract.

I saw him in a couple of outings in Fall Instructional League. He and A.J. Morris were head and shoulders above everybody including Solis, Cole, and Ray.

The Nats are stockpiling some serious bullpen help, probably because of the lack of starters.

Theophilus said...

No bias in knucklehead definition . . . wait until the world has had a full exposure to Colby Rasmus.

How is it biased to ask that a guy (A) hit the cut-off man; (2) keep an eye on the pitcher when leading off first; (3) cut down on his swing w/ two strikes; (4) stay out of fights?

I will give you a perfect example of a WASP knucklehead: Mark Reynolds (previously incarnated as Dave Kingman). I think it was Ray Knight who pointed out if Reynolds cut down on his swing on just 100 of his 200 Ks, how many more balls would be put in play, how many more hits he would have, and how many more runs he would have batted in. He'll hit 50 HRs in Baltimore (left field was measured for Cal Ripken), strike out 220 times, bat .216 (a 20-point improvement), and the Os will finish last.

Anonymous said...

I saw Mattheus in Tulsa(AA Rox). Threw hard and had decent control. Got people out in a late-inning setup role. If his elbow is back in shape, he could be really good.
fpcsteve

Doc said...

@ Steve M.: Very perceptive; only Boras would promote Fielder as Texiera.

Will said...

It doesn't make much sense giving a guy, who only pitched 11 rehab innings in Rookie ball last season, coming off major elbow surgery that caused him to miss an entire season, and has never pitched an inning in the major leagues, a major league contract.

What was the reasoning there? Why not spend a few hundred thousand more dollars to resign Peralta, who proved he could pitch well in the big show?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps other clubs were also offering Mattheus a major league contract.

The Herndon Kid said...

I think this is a good depth move. It means people like Willie Harris and Justin Maxwell aren't likely to play, which is a good thing. Now we need a 1B.

sparky said...

Mattheus had a 40 man roster spot all last season. He was outrighted just a few weeks ago (to make room prior to the rule 5 draft I think). Supposed to be recovered from TJ surgery and ready to go.

sparky said...

Also, guess this puts our 40 man roster at 43.
Not sure how long we can run an overage here. Or when we can start shifting people to the 60 day DL.
Mark Z?

sec3 said...

there is no Disabled List in the off-season.

Mark Zuckerman said...

As far as the 40-man roster thing goes, they do need to remove three players now (counting the Mattheus re-signing). It's possible those players have already been removed but are currently going through waivers (which isn't made public). If they clear waivers, they'd then be outrighted to Syracuse. I imagine we'll hear something in the next day or two.

Also, the Ankiel move isn't official yet because he still has to take a physical. So they don't need to clear a roster spot for him until that happens.

natsfan1a said...

My sacrioliac begs to differ. What? Oh. Never mind...

---

sec3 said...

there is no Disabled List in the off-season.
December 20, 2010 4:38 PM

natsfan1a said...

sacroiliac. Dang. Now it's affecting my typing, too...

Ernie said...

Overall I think this is good. A definite step up over Willie Harris. My two contributions to the discussion:

1. I know it's an outfield position this time, but this feel a lot like the Adam Kennedy signing last year. We ended up with an excess of players, all of whom had a reason to expect to be starters. I wonder whether Ankiel expects to compete for a starting role, to be used in platoon, or to hang out with Stairs on the bench.

2. I've got serious suspicions of an upcoming trade. This would be a great pickup for the bench, but I'm thinking it's more likely that Rizzo is setting up to package Morse, Bernadina or Morgan with a few of the others mentioned in the Greinke talks for something surprising. Hope springs eternal...

JaneB said...

Maxwell is out of waivers though, isn't he?

I'm with the crew who thinks this signing is a Harris replacement.

Mark, why did Bernadina not stick out winter ball? Is he healthy?

Big Cat said...

The latest on Henry Rodriguez pitching in the Venezwuela(sp) Winter League

13 innings pitched 3 hits allowed with 17 k's and only 5 bb's

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