Nationals sign three to minor league deals, invite Norris to spring training

The list of players scheduled to be in the Nationals’ major league camp this spring continued to grow on Friday. The team signed three players - pitcher J.D. Martin, catcher Carlos Maldonado and first baseman Kevin Barker - to minor league deals with invitations to spring training. They also invited three more players, including starter Matt Chico and top prospect Derek Norris, to big league camp.

The Nationals also invited reliever Josh Wilkie, a George Washington graduate, and catcher Jhonatan Solano to big league camp.

My take on the moves: Chico and Martin make sense; they’ve both been in the system for a while and, at times, have shown they can make a decent start or two. Neither is likely to make the team this spring, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them ends up in the majors this season, starting for the team in a pinch. Maldonado has also been in the system, and Barker, a journeyman who has played for four teams, is a Bristol, Va., native. Consider all four players a form of rainy-day insurance.

And Norris getting a spring training invite makes sense; he’ll probably start the year at Double-A Harrisburg, and the team would like to get a look at him catching big league pitchers before sending him out. It’s another sign he factors prominently in the Nationals’ future, though he still needs to polish his defensive skills before he can be considered a legitimate major league option.

Fans have taken a liking to Wilkie, who has been in the Nationals’ system since 2006 and has pitched well the last three years in the minors. He’s in a crowded race to make the team out of the bullpen, and will have to be sharp to get noticed amongst all the Nationals’ hard-throwing relievers, but he hasn’t hurt his stock with the way he’s pitched in the past.