Mar 20, 2014; Clearwater, FL, USA; Philadelphia PhilliesTony Gwynn
Jr. (19) celebrates with outfielderMarlon Byrd
(3) after scoring in the first inning of the spring training exhibition game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
While the Washington Nationals already have a loaded roster and a wealth of talented players at their Spring Training camp in Viera, Fla., general manager Mike Rizzo never turns down an opportunity to help make his ball club even better. On Monday night, that’s exactly what he did.
In an effort to add depth to a relatively thin outfield, the Nationals signed outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. – son of the late Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn – to a minor league deal Monday. Gwynn’s deal includes an invitation to major league Spring Training, where he will report on Wednesday.
Gwynn joins the Nationals at a time when the team isn’t as strong as it could be in outfield depth – or at least experienced outfield depth. Left fielder Jayson Werth may not be ready in time for Opening Day after undergoing shoulder surgery earlier this offseason, and Nate McLouth, who would likely get the Opening Day nod in left if Werth isn’t back in time, is recovering from shoulder surgery of his own.
Before signing Gwynn, the Nationals likely would’ve had to settle for McLouth as the fourth outfielder and have rookies such as Michael Taylor battle it out with veterans such as Mike Carp for a spot on the Opening Day bench. With Gwynn on board, the Nationals have another option to take Werth’s place on Opening Day if McLouth struggles this spring.
"“[The Nationals] presented the best opportunity to be in the big leagues,” Gwynn told MLB.com’s Bill Ladson in a phone call Monday. “Even before I signed, in my mind they are the team to beat in the National League. Who wouldn’t want to play for a National League contender?”"
Gwynn joins the Nationals after spending all of last season with the Phillies, where he hit .152 in 105 at-bats with three RBIs and three stolen bases. The outfielder has a career batting average of .238 with 98 RBIs and 80 stolen bases in parts of eight seasons with the Brewers, Padres, Dodgers and Phillies.