Astros release outfielder Rick Ankiel

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This hardly comes as a surprise, but Sara Eckert of CSNHouston.com reports that the Astros have officially released outfielder Rick Ankiel.

Ankiel was designated for assignment earlier this week as part of a mini-roster shakeup and passed through waivers unclaimed. While the 33-year-old outfielder ranked second on the Astros with five home runs, he was batting just .194 with a .234 on-base percentage and had a miserable 35/3 K/BB ratio in 65 plate appearances. That’s a strikeout rate of 53.8 percent. Yikes.

That Ankiel was dumped by the worst team in the American League doesn’t bode well for his chances of finding an opportunity elsewhere. Still, he’s had a heck of a career for someone who appeared done in his early 20s.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal

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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.