The Nationals have signed reserve outfielder Nate McLouth to a two-year, $10.5 million contract, pending a physical, according to multiple media reports. The story was first reported by FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal.
McLouth resurrected his career with the Baltimore Orioles over the last season-and-a-half. In 209 at-bats over the second half of the 2012 season, McLouth had a .777 on-base percentage and helped the Orioles reach the playoffs. He started 127 games for Baltimore in 2013, most of them in center field and left field, dropping to a .729 OPS.
It’s the start of a bench overhaul for the Nats, who saw reserves like Roger Bernadina (.517 OPS), Chad Tracy (.568 OPS) and Tyler Moore (.607 OPS) plummet to earth last year after solid seasons in 2012.
Utility man Steve Lombardozzi (.616 OPS) struggled at the plate, too. He was traded to Detroit this week in the Doug Fister deal. In a small sample size – 62 plate appearances – Scott Hairston had an OPS of .625. Washington’s bench consisted of out machines. That had to change going into 2014. McLouth, for now, is expected to be the fourth outfielder behind Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Denard Span.
“I don’t think much has changed since we started the offseason,” general manager Mike Rizzo said this week. “We feel that we’d like to tweak the bullpen a little bit. We’d like to help the bench a little bit. We wanted to address the rotation, which we’ve done. We still have some work to do. Like I said, we’re not a flawless team.”
McLouth was a rising star with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2007 to 2009. He even made an All-Star team in 2008 at age 26. But his game fell apart in 2009 after a trade from Pittsburgh to the Atlanta Braves. He batted just .190 in 2010 and .228 the following year.
McLouth signed back with Pittsburgh as a free agent for 2012, but by May 31 of that season he was 8-for-57 (.140 batting average, .385 OPS) and was cut. He quickly signed with the Orioles and found his swing again over the final 55 games (.268 batting average). No longer a rising star, at least McLouth was contributing on a good team. That continued with Baltimore in 2013, though McLouth may have been exposed as the primary starter in left. His numbers dipped, though nowhere near the bottoming out he had earlier.