You’ve got to love the Internet revolution. How else would we know when players decide on a new team?
Second baseman Matt Antonelli chose his personal blog to deliver the news this afternoon that he’s decided to accept a contract offer from the Nationals. Mind you, the team hasn’t issued a press release, and it’s unclear whether Antonelli is getting a major league deal or a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training in Viera, Fla., but the 25-year-old is some nice infield insurance to add to the organizational inventory.
Selected in the first round of the 2006 draft with the 17th overall pick, Antonelli was once a highly regarded prospect in the San Diego system. But he’s only had a cup of coffee in the majors, hitting .193 with a home run and three RBIs in 21 games in 2008. His first hit was a single off future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux on Sept. 1 against the Dodgers, and he homered off Colorado’s Jason Hirsh on Sept. 15.
Hand and knee injuries limited him to 59 games at Triple-A Portland in 2009, and Antonelli hit only .196. Last year, a broken wrist cost him most of the season - Antonelli played in only one game, for San Diego’s Arizona-based Rookie League affiliate.
The Padres cut ties with him Dec. 2, and Antonelli weighed several offers before signing today with the Nationals.
“It really is a interesting experience when you are a free agent and have to weight different options and ultimately decide where you are going to play,” he wrote in today’s blog posting. “After looking through the potential destinations last night I decided this morning that my best opportunity was to sign with the Washington Nationals. I am really excited for Spring Training to get back to playing again and being a part of their team. It has been a while since I’ve had the chance to be out on a baseball field and I know it will feel great when I’m able to do it again, especially this time being fully healthy.”
Antonelli carries a reputation as a good glove man who can hit, just not with much power. He’s a career .257 hitter in five minor league seasons, but his breakout 2007 campaign was what got scouts thinking he could hit better than he’d previously shown. That year, between Single-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio, Antonelli batted .307 with 21 homers and 78 RBIs with 28 stolen bases.
Right now, Antonelli profiles as a guy who could be stashed at Triple-A Syracuse as insurance against any backsliding from Danny Espinosa, who is expected to play second base for the Nationals in 2011. Antonelli also provides a cushion for second base prospect Steven Lombardozzi, who could start the year at Double-A Harrisburg.