Astros sign Ankiel, avoid arbitration with Lowrie, Norris, & Wright
The Astros have agreed to terms with all three of their arbitration-eligible players. Jed Lowrie, Bud Norris, and Wesley Wright all signed one-year deals prior to today’s deadline. Lowrie signed a $2.4 million contract that also includes bonus clauses. Norris will make $3 million, and the terms of Wright’s deal were not disclosed.
Now the team can concentrate on trying to improve upon their young roster. In what could be the first of several minor league deals offered by the club, Houston signed Rick Ankiel and extended him an invitation to Spring Training. After pitching for the Cardinals from 1999 until 2004, the lefty lost his control and made the transition to position player. Now 33, Ankiel has spent the past six seasons as a big league outfielder. He hit .228/.282/.411 in 171 plate appearances for the Nationals last season.
Speaking about the Astros current outfield situation, Jeff Luhnow told the Chronicle:
"We’ve got a lot of players in the mix right now. But he’s got the most experience out of all of them. So he’s got a pretty good chance to make the club."
Luhnow also said the fact that Fernando Martinez is participating in the WBC could affect his chances to make the Opening Day roster. But with Spain likely to be ousted from the tournament early, I don’t see it as much of an issue. It sounds like Luhnow is looking for an excuse to give Ankiel (or someone else) a look in some regular season games.
Rick Ankiel will be reunited with his former third-base coach, Bo Porter (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Ankiel was a “feel-good” story back in 2007, when he made a triumphant return to the big leagues by hitting .285/.328/.535 in 190 plate appearances for St. Louis. But his numbers have steadily declined in each of the last five seasons. Ankiel is a plus defender and can play all three outfield positions. But the Astros will need him to recapture the power stroke that got him back to the majors. Otherwise, we could be looking at another Brian Bogusevic.