2006 first-round pick Matt Antonelli was a big bust for the Padres, but the Orioles apparently liked what he did with the Nationals’ Triple-A club last season. They signed him to a major league contract on Friday and will give him a chance to compete for a job in spring training.
Antonelli, who turns 27 in April, hit .297/.393/.460 with eight homers and a 59/47 K/BB ratio in 300 at-bats for Triple-A Syracuse.
For Antonelli, it was his first successful campaign since 2007. Baseball America rated him the game’s No. 50 prospect after that season, but he went on to hit .215/.335/.322 and .196/.300/.339 for the Padres’ Triple-A club the following two seasons. After he missed most of 2010 with a fractured hamate bone, he was non-tendered by the Padres and signed with Washington.
Strictly a third baseman and a second baseman beforehand, Antonelli got some time at shortstop and in left field last season, making him a more viable option as a utilityman. The Orioles can’t be certain they can count on Brian Roberts at second base and they’ll probably open up with the inconsistent Chris Davis at third base next year, so there might be an opportunity for Antonelli to gain substantial playing time if he wins a job.
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.