Friday's minor moves: Rangers, Dodgers, Marlins

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Rangers claimed infielder Joe Inglett off waivers from the Blue Jays.
Inglett, 31, played a key role of the 2008 Jays, but he spent most of last season back in the minors, as the team preferred the right-handed-hitting Jose Bautista in the spot the lefty-swinging Inglett could have occupied. He’s a career .293/.349/.396 hitter in 639 at-bats, but since he can’t play shortstop and he’s below average at second base, he’s had a difficult time establishing himself. He’d make plenty of sense as a 25th man for a Rangers team that will rarely if ever take its second and third basemen out of the lineup.
Dodgers signed RHP Justin Miller to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Miller likely would have gotten a major league deal had he not injured his elbow late in the year and required surgery. He had a 3.18 ERA in 56 2/3 innings for the Giants last season. Still, his peripherals suggest it was a fluke. He possesses a nice slider, but his fastball isn’t what it used to be and he’s always walked a few too many guys. The minor league contract was appropriate.
Brewers signed outfielder Trent Oeltjen to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Oeltjen, a 26-year-old out of Australia, was a brief sensation for the Diamondbacks last season, going 12-for-24 with three homers, a triple and two doubles in his first five major league games. Unfortunately, he went 5-for-46 the rest of the way and was dropped from the 40-man roster at season’s end. Oeltjen is a quality defender in an outfield corner and a left-handed hitter, so he has a shot at a career as a bench player. Still, there’s no clear strength to his game that’s going to help carry him. The Brewers figure to have him start out at Triple-A.
Orioles re-signed catcher Chad Moeller to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Moeller looked around for a guaranteed deal, but he couldn’t find one. He hit .258/.313/.438 in 89 at-bats while backing up Matt Wieters last season, and he’ll probably be the favorite to hold the job next year, though Craig Tatum and Michel Hernandez will get a chance to compete.
Marlins signed RHP Jesse Foppert, RHP John Fulton, RHP Kasey Olenberger, INF-OF Hector Luna, INF Vinny Rottino and OF Brandon Tripp to minor league contracts.
Olenberger, Luna and Rottino received invitations to spring training. Olenberger, 31, is being re-signed after posting a 1.10 ERA in 65 2/3 innings for the Marlins’ Double-A club last season. It’s surprising he opted to stick around, given that the Marlins called up all kinds of pitchers last season yet never gave him a second thought.
Luna, 29, batted .351/.414/.610 in 313 at-bats for the Dodgers’ Triple-A club in Las Vegas last season. If only he kept himself in better shape, he’d be in the middle of a fine career as a utilityman. As is, he’s too poor of an infielder to be of real use.
Foppert is still kicking around after all this time. The one-time elite prospect hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2005. He had a 6.27 ERA in eight starts and two relief appearances for the Giants’ Double-A affiliate last season.

Angels’ Pujols has foot surgery, could be sidelined 4 months

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols had surgery on his right foot Friday, possibly sidelining him past opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols had the procedure Friday in North Carolina to release his plantar fascia, the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The three-time NL MVP was bothered by plantar fasciitis repeatedly during the season, but played through the pain in arguably the strongest year of his half-decade with the Angels.

Eppler said the surgery typically prevents players from participating in baseball activities for three months, along with another month before they’re ready to resume playing in games. Opening day for Los Angeles is April 3, and the Angels hope Pujols can be ready.

“He’s at that point in his career where he’s keenly aware of what’s happening with his body,” Eppler said in a phone interview. “I don’t put the timetable on Albert like you would with your younger players. We’ll just see in Albert’s case, as he progresses, what his timetable is.”

Pujols, who turns 37 next month, batted .268 last year with 31 homers and 119 RBIs, the fourth-most in the majors – although his .780 OPS was among the worst of his career. He largely served as a designated hitter instead of playing first base due to problems with his hamstrings and feet.

Pujols heads into 2017 with 591 career homers, ranking him ninth in major league history. He is 18 homers behind Sammy Sosa for eighth place.

After playing in pain until the final week of the Angels’ disappointing season, Pujols began shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, believing he wouldn’t need surgery.

But Pujols’ foot became more painful in recent weeks despite the therapy, and he huddled with the Angels’ top brass to decide on surgery after his most recent trip to see Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina. Continuing with conservative care would have required 10 more weeks, forcing Pujols to miss the first half of the 2017 season if he still required surgery.

“He just felt that the pain had gotten to a point where he was comfortable” having surgery, Eppler said. “If we did delay it, you’re just looking at 2 1/2 more months into the season.”

Pujols had a different type of surgery on his right foot last winter, but recovered in time for opening day. He also had plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the 2013 season, eventually forcing him out for the year when his fascia snapped.

Pujols has five years and $140 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract that pried him out of St. Louis, where he won two World Series and became a nine-time NL All-Star.

The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since Pujols’ arrival and Mike Trout‘s concurrent emergence as one of baseball’s best players. They went 74-88 last season, the injury-plagued club’s worst record since 1999.

Diamondbacks hire Mike Fitzgerald to head Research and Development department

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Mike Hazen, new Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Red Sox, addresses the media during a press conference to announce his promotion before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on September 24, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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According to an official announcement, the Diamondbacks have acquired former Pirates quantitative analyst Mike Fitzgerald as their new Director of Research and Development.

Fitzgerald joined the Pirates’ front office in 2012, where he frequently accompanied the team on the road to help breach the divide between analytics and the clubhouse. According to a profile written by Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh in 2014, Fitzgerald’s multifaceted approach brought balance and perspective to the organization, whether he was assisting coaches in making statistically sound decisions, optimizing the batting order, weighing in on scouting and personnel decisions, developing more effective defensive positioning, or keeping players and personnel appraised of the latest developments in sabermetrics.

In the wake of Fitzgerald’s departure, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington praised the Diamondbacks for a smart acquisition and said that the club has every intention of finding a replacement analyst, albeit one who will have some big shoes to fill.