The Nationals announced Monday that they’ve claimed first baseman Mike Ford off waivers from the Rays and opened a spot on the 40-man roster by transferring right-hander Joe Ross from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL. Tampa Bay had designated Ford for assignment over the weekend.
Ford, 29, had a big showing with the Yankees as a rookie in 2019 when he batted .259/.350/.559 with a dozen home runs in 163 plate appearances. He’s had a near-identical sample of 156 plate appearances since that time, however, and managed just a .134/.250/.276 batting line in the big leagues. The Yankees moved on from Ford back in June when they designated him for assignment, and while the Rays acquired him shortly thereafter, he never got called to the big leagues with Tampa Bay.
Instead, Ford has spent his time with the Rays rediscovering his swing in Triple-A Durham. He’d gone just 2-for-24 with eight strikeouts in 29 plate appearances with the Yankees’ top minor league affiliate this year, but Ford righted the ship (to an extent) with a .243/.346/.529 batting line in 162 Triple-A plate appearances in the Rays organization.
Ford will now join a Nationals club that went through a broad-reaching sell off prior to the trade deadline — a housecleaning effort that could lead to him getting some opportunities down the stretch. He’s been optioned to Triple-A Rochester for the time being, but Ford has another five years of club control remaining so they could take a look at him as a longer-term option at first base (or, if it comes to the National League, designated hitter). Josh Bell has been Washington’s primary first baseman this season but recently made an outfield appearance, which could allow the Nats a path to getting a look at both players at the plate.
As for Ross, the move to the 60-day IL comes as little surprise. The Nats recently announced that the righty was found to have an ulnar collateral ligament injury earlier this month, but he won’t require surgical repair. Still, given the nature of his injury and the remaining time on the calendar, it never looked likely that he’d make it back to the mound in 2021.