Nate McLouth passed his physical on Wednesday and the Nationals formally announced his two-year deal on Thursday, almost a week after he agreed to terms. McLouth, 32, a nine-year veteran and a career .250 hitter with a .334 on-base percentage who spent the past season-plus with the Baltimore Orioles, is expected to serve as the Nationals’ fourth outfielder and primary left-handed bat on the bench. His deal is worth $10.75 million for two years with a $6.5 million club option for 2016. According to a person familiar with the deal, McLouth will be owed $5 million in ’14, $5 million in ’15 and his ’16 option has a $750,000 buyout, so he will guaranteed $10.75 million but the whole deal could be worth as much as $16.5 million.
In order to make room for McLouth on the roster, the Nationals designated outfielder Corey Brown for assignment. Brown, 28, spent the majority of the past three seasons playing at Class AAA Syracuse. Brown, a versatile outfielder who has power, battled injuries and appeared to be out of minor league options. He played in 107 games last season and posted a .254/.326/.473 triple slash line with 19 home runs and 56 RBI, and was called up in September. He had a .888 OPS in 2012 at Syracuse with a 25 home runs and hit 14 home runs the previous season. He is 6 for 40 with two home runs in the majors over three major league stints.
Ideally, Brown would have come to spring training with a chance to compete for the fourth outfielder job, but the Nationals wanted to supplement their bench with more proven and experienced players such as McLouth and Scott Hairston, who was acquired in a trade mid-season last year. The Nationals like Brown and he is popular with teammates, but this may just be a matter of timing. Brown was passed over on major league call-ups because of injuries. And since he has been called up to the majors three times already, didn’t have any more options remaining and the Nationals upgraded their bench beyond him, he was no longer a fit.
Brown is young and has a career .835 OPS and 123 home runs in the minors but struck out at least 130 times each of the past three seasons. If he doesn’t get traded or return to the Nationals on a new deal, he could have a fair number of suitors after his release.