DALLAS - Just like last year, the Winter Meetings aren't waiting until their official Monday start for player news, and one of the first tidbits from the Hilton Anatole came in the form of reports that the Nationals have lost a guy off the bench they had hoped to re-sign.
According to multiple media outlets, the Phillies have agreed to a two-year major league deal with outfielder Laynce Nix, ending the powerful left-handed hitter's tenure in D.C. after just one season. Nix, 31, posted career highs of 124 games and 16 homers, and matched a career best with 23 walks, after making the team out of spring training as a non-roster invitee. Nix hit .250 and drove in 44 runs, though a hamstring injury slowed him after a strong start.
Nix played all three outfield spots and even logged some time at first base. All of his homers came off right-handed pitching and the Nats were interested in re-signing him to act as a power bat off what is expected to be a reconfigured bench more to manager Davey Johnson's liking.
But Nix couldn't pass up the lure of a guaranteed two-year deal with the Phillies - the first major league contract he's ever signed in a nine-year career.
With Nix's departure, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo may intensify his efforts to re-sign outfielder Rick Ankiel. It's doubtful that both Nix and Ankiel, two left-handed swingers, would have made next year's 25-man roster out of spring training. Ankiel's fate may come down to how much Johnson values a guy whose chief weapons are defense, a strong arm and speed. Johnson has expressed an interest in having a couple of power hitters who can run into a fastball on his bench, hoping to make opposing managers think twice about matchups late in games.
In other news, ex-Nationals manager Jim Riggleman reportedly will return as a field boss next season with the Reds' new Double-A affiliate in Pensacola, Fla. Riggleman has been hired to skipper the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
Riggleman resigned as the Nats' manager on June 23, upset that Rizzo wouldn't entertain discussions about a contract extension. The 59-year-old Riggleman has long ties to Reds GM Walt Jocketty from their time together in the St. Louis organization.
Riggleman, who has a 662-824 career managerial record with the Padres, Cubs, Mariners and Nationals, replaces David Bell at the Double-A level. Bell, who led the Double-A Carolina Mudcats in 2011, was promoted to the helm at Triple-A Louisville.
The Blue Wahoos moved to Pensacola from Zebulon, N.C., and will play in the Southern League, with the Single-A Kinston Indians, a Cleveland farm club, moving from Kinston, N.C., and becoming the Mudcats while remaining in the Carolina League.
Riggleman hasn't managed in the minors since 1992, when he skippered Triple-A Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League. His last turn in Double-A came from 1985-88 with Arkansas of the Southern League. He has a career 558-554 record as a minor league manager.
Monday update: Nix's deal is worth $2,5 million.