The Nationals have inked outfielder Nate Schierholtz to a minor league deal, the club announced on Twitter. The left-handed-swinging 30-year-old was recently released by the Cubs, who will owe him the remainder of his $5MM salary — less whatever he earns in Washington (presumably, at the league-minimum rate).
Schierholtz has had a tough year thus far, posting a meager .192/.240/.300 line with six home runs over 341 plate appearances. But he entered the offseason coming off a string of solid production: his cumulative line over 2011-13 (1,134 plate appearances) stands at a fairly robust .261/.314/.442. He has posted large splits historically, with a lifetime .722 OPS against righties but a .650 mark against same-handed pitchers. Though his batting average and on-base numbers have been similar, much of his pop has come with the platoon advantage.
The move makes sense for a Nationals club that has dealt with some injuries to its outfielding corps. In particular, left-handed-hitting fourth outfielder Nate McLouth has struggled to work his way back from a right shoulder injury, and had largely been ineffective (.173/.280/.237) before going down. The team’s top young call-up options (including Michael Taylor, Steven Souza, Tyler Moore, Eury Perez, and Jeff Kobernus) are all right-handed bats, creating a solid opportunity for the veteran Schierholtz in D.C.
Somewhat ironically, the move comes approximately a year to the day that the Nats added another lefty bat who had spent his season with Chicago. In 2013, the club acquired David DeJesus through a waiver claim, only to flip him days later to the Rays through another August waiver deal. (Earlier that summer, those clubs matched up in another deal for an outfielder, with Scott Hairston heading to D.C.) Of course, the circumstances are quite different: last year at this time, a disappointing Nationals team was sitting at the extreme periphery of the postseason hunt, while the club now owns a six-game lead in the NL East.