Nine agree to minor league deals with spring invites

The Nationals have agreed to terms with nine players on minor league contracts with invitations to spring training in Viera, Fla. So make room in the clubhouse for right-handers Jeff Fulchino and Waldis Joaquin, catcher Carlos Maldonado, infielders Andres Blanco, Jarrett Hoffpauir and Chad Tracy, and outfielders Brett Carroll, Jason Michaels and Xavier Paul.

In addition, three players currently in the organization have been invited to camp as non-roster players: catcher Sandy Leon, outfielder Corey Brown and right-hander Rafael Martin.

We’ve already covered the deals with Fulchino, Carroll, Blanco, Michaels and Joaquin in previous posts. Some of the other names are familiar to you, and others are not, so we’ll take a quick spin around their careers and look at where they fit in.

Maldonado returns for his third season in the Nationals’ organization, his 16th in baseball. In three seasons with the Pirates and Nats, the 32-year-old has appeared in 25 major league games, hitting .185 with three homers and seven RBIs. Most organizations like to carry a veteran catcher in the high minors, and Maldonado fills that bill.

The 28-year-old Hoffpauir batted 281 with five home runs and 34 RBIs in 91 games last season with Triple-A Tucson. A second baseman and third baseman, he has appeared in 21 big league games with the Cardinals and Blue Jays, hitting .217; but in eight minor league seasons, he’s a .285 hitter. He’ll be around to push Steve Lombardozzi and provide some infield insurance for the Nats.

Tracy has the most major league experience of the new additions, with seven seasons as a Diamondback, Cub and Marlin, but the 31-year-old played last season with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Japanese Central League, where he hit only .235 with one home run and 19 RBIs in 40 games. He’s a left-handed power bat with 79 major league homers to his credit, though 47 of those came in 2005-06 with Arizona. He’s a pinch hitter if he sticks with the big club, a spare bat if doesn’t and remains in the organization.

Paul is a 26-year-old who has never realized his potential with the Dodgers or Pirates, for whom he’s hit .246 with three homers, 42 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in parts of three seasons. He’s often been the guy a club begrudgingly parted with in a roster squeeze and is regarded as a good defender and baserunner. Last year, he batted .255 with two homers, 20 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 128 games - all career highs. Eight minor league seasons yielded a .291 career average. Paul is the classic tweener, but could benefit from a change of scenery (though he looks a lot like a Roger Bernadina clone, and the Nats already have one of those).

The 22-year-old Leon batted .251 at Single-A Potomac in 2011, and gives the Nationals another receiver to handle their pitching staff in spring training. Brown was part of the Josh Willingham trade with the A’s last offseason and the 26-year-old hit .235 with 14 homers at Triple-A Syracuse last season before appearing in three games with the Nats during a September recall. The 27-year-old Martin was snagged out of the Mexican League in 2009. He went 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA in 38 relief outings for Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg last season.

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