Aaron Gleeman

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Nationals hire Rick Ankiel as “life skills coordinator”

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Rick Ankiel’s weird career has taken another interesting turn, as the retired pitcher-turned-outfielder has been hired by the Nationals as a “life skills coordinator” as part of their minor-league coaching staff.

According to the team’s press release the 35-year-old Ankiel “will draw on his vast experience as a player to help mentor Nationals farmhands.”

Few players showed as much promise as Ankiel back when he was a young starting pitcher, few players went through a darker period than when he ceased being able to throw the ball over the plate, and few players totally changed the direction of their career like when he became a major league outfielder.

So who knows exactly what the job of a “life skills coordinator” entails, but if nothing else Ankiel is a very interesting pick for the gig.

Josh Johnson’s new deal with the Padres is loaded with incentives

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Josh Johnson and the Padres have finally made their one-year deal official more than two weeks after it was reported as done.

Johnson re-signed with San Diego after giving the Padres zero value on a one-year, $8 million last season, so this time around the team committed just $1 million in guaranteed money and filled the contract with incentives.

Johnson would earn $500,000 for his fifth start, $1 million for his 10th, $500,000 for his 15th, $1 million for his 20th and $250,000 for every start from Nos. 21-33.

If he somehow stayed healthy enough to make 33 starts–Johnson did that once, in 2009, and has started more than 25 games in a season just three times–he’d earn a total of $8.25 million in 2015.

Gaby Sanchez signs with Japanese team

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Non-tendered last month after the Pirates acquired Sean Rodriguez to potentially replace his right-handed bat, Gaby Sanchez has signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan.

His move to Japan is surprising because it seemed pretty likely that Sanchez would be able to snag another part-time role in the big leagues at age 31, but the Associated Press says he’ll get $2.5 million and that’s almost surely more than any MLB team would have paid.

Sanchez is a career .254 hitter with a .744 OPS in seven seasons, including a paltry .691 OPS versus righties compared to a strong .863 OPS off lefties. He made the All-Star team in 2011.

Braves designate Tyler Pastornicky for assignment

Tyler Pastornicky
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To make room on the 40-man roster for a trio of new additions the Braves designated for assignment infielder Tyler Pastornicky.

Pastornicky debuted at age 22 and once looked likely to establish himself as at least a semi-regular, but he’s hit just .243 with two homers and a .608 OPS in 124 career games.

His recent numbers in the minors haven’t been much better, but he’s still only 25 years old and could latch on somewhere as a utility man.

Diamondbacks sign Nick Punto

Nick Punto
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Released by the A’s last month, veteran utility infielder Nick Punto has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Diamondbacks. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that it includes an invitation to spring training.

Oakland cut Punto despite owing him $2.75 million for 2015, which was odd considering he had a pretty typical season in 2014 and the A’s deemed him worthy of a two-year deal last offseason.

He figures to be a part-timer in Arizona, backing up all over the infield at age 37, although the Diamondbacks already have a similar player in Cliff Pennington to fill that role (barring, say, an Aaron Hill trade).