The Nationals and free-agent catcher/outfielder Blake Swihart agreed to a minor league deal, as first reported by Talk Nats (on Twitter). Swihart, an O’Connell Sports Management client, will be invited to Major League Spring Training. MLBTR has confirmed the agreement between the two sides.
Soon to turn 29, Swihart once ranked as one of the game’s elite prospects. Baseball America, MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus and other outlets all ranked him inside the game’s 20 best prospects back in 2015, but Swihart never really got a full-time audition with the Red Sox and has yet to find his footing in the big leagues. That’s in part due to a string of foot and ankle injuries that interrupted his early career but also due to some questions about his ability to handle the catcher position from a defensive standpoint.
Swihart has appeared in 234 big league games and tallied 696 plate appearances, but the result is a lackluster .243/.301/.355 batting line that falls well shy of expectations for a prospect whose offensive potential was once so heralded. While catcher has been his most frequent position in the Majors (964 innings), Swihart has seen more time in left field and at first base over the past few seasons than he has behind the plate.
Swihart didn’t play in the big leagues last year after opening the season in the Rangers organization. He was part of the 60-man player pool in Texas for the season’s first month but was eventually cut loose a few days prior to the Aug. 31 trade deadline.
The Nats likely view Swihart as an option to compete for a backup catcher and reserve outfield role off the bench. Yan Gomes is slated to be Washington’s everyday catcher, with Tres Barrera standing as the lone backup option on the 40-man roster. Welington Castillo returns once again as a non-roster invitee, and 27-year-old Raudy Read has gotten a pair of brief looks in the big leagues with the Nats as well (though he’s since been removed from the 40-man roster).