Jason Varitek is said to be leaning toward retirement, but the other 40-year-old catcher on the free agent market, Ivan Rodriguez, is still trying to land a gig for 2012.
Rodriguez told the Associated Press that he’s been “working out every day in the gym” and “can still play” if a team gives him a chance, noting that the number of big-name veterans without jobs as spring training begins “is hard to believe.”
In some cases, perhaps, but at this point Rodriguez, like Varitek, is a pretty marginal major leaguer. He brings plenty of experience and still-strong defense to the table, but the 40-year-old future Hall of Famer was abysmal offensively last season and hasn’t been a productive hitter–even for a catcher–since 2006.
Rodriguez is still hoping to reach 3,000 hits, but even if he can find a part-time gig for this season getting the 166 hits necessary is an extreme long shot. He had just 27 hits last year and hasn’t topped 110 hits in a season since 2007. Overall he’s no worse than several backups around baseball, but unfortunately for Rodriguez he’s also not clearly better.
The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.
Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.
Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.