August 14, 2022

Nationals sign Rick Ankiel to minor league deal

According to multiple reports, the Washington Nationals signed free agent outfielder Rick Ankiel to a  minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.  Ankiel, 32, spent 2011 with the Nats, hitting .239/.296/.363 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs in 122 games.  The nine-year veteran has hit .246/.309/.423 for his career.

Rick Ankiel (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Ankiel provides depth in center field and still possesses one fo the strongest throwing arms in the game.  Ankiel started his big league career as a pitcher, but was famously converted to an outfielder after losing all semblance of control after a very impressive rookie campaign, going 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 175.0 innings.

As a hitter, Ankiel provides some amount of pop from the left side, and the Nats could do worse if Ankiel is the left-handed bat off the bench and late-inning defensive replacement.  However, if like last season Ankiel is forced into the bigger half of a platoon situation in center field — most likely with fellow free swinger Mike Cameron — his free swinging ways and lack of plate coverage will once again be a big hole in the Nats everyday lineup.

Ankiel actually received the second-most plate appearances of his career for the Nats last season.

This move further signals the Nats’ unhappiness with the development of Roger Bernadina as a center fielder.  For all his speed, Bernadina is below average defensively in center and much stronger in left field, but his bat just doesn’t play at the corners.

As discussed all winter long, one of the biggest questions the Nats face in spring training is whether Bryce Harper is ready to make the team on opening day.  If Harper plays well enough in the spring and forces the Nats hand to bring him north, Jayson Werth will slide into center field for the season and give the Nats a fairly potent offensive outfield, while being less-than-optimal defensively in center and left field, where Michael Morse is set.

But if Harper isn’t ready, Werth stays in right and we’ll see the old man platoon of Ankiel and Cameron patrolling center.  They’re both terrific defenders still, but neither possesses the plate discipline to be Major League regulars anymore.  If Harper can’t win the job, or if GM Mike Rizzo decides that he wants Harper to start the season in the minor leagues for whatever reason, the batting order will suffer.

I guess we’ll all find out during spring training.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

Comments

  1. Does Bernadina have any minor league options left, or does he have to be DFA’ed?

  2. Yes

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