With the trade of Josh Willingham to the Oakland Athletics, the Washington Nationals needed to find someone to help their shallow outfield. It looks like they've done just that, as they've signed Rick Ankiel to a one-year contract worth anywhere from $1.5 million to $2.75 million, depending on whether Ankiel meets some performance incentives. Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman first reported the news, and Mark Zuckerman reports that the deal is done, pending a physical.
Ankiel is a 30-year-old outfielder that began his career as a pitching prodigy before control issues ruined things. He resurfaced as an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2007, coming out of nowhere to be a productive player. However, that production has tailed off, as he hit just .232 with six home runs and 24 RBI in a 2010 season split between the Kansas City Royals and the Atlanta Braves.
Ankiel's biggest strength is his fielding, as he has a cannon arm that he's used to throw out players before. In that sense, he fits with general manager Mike Rizzo's vision of building a more defensive-oriented teams. It's not clear whether he'll be a reserve or whether he'll platoon with Roger Bernandina in left field.