The Nationals signed Chris Young as insurance behind their established starting rotation, but Young can decide whether that policy will last beyond spring training.
Young signed a minor league contract last week that, according to a person familiar with the deal, allows him to opt out on March 24, one week before opening day.
The deal will be worth $2 million guaranteed if he makes the Nationals’ opening day 25-man roster.
Young’s deal could be worth up to $3.75 million with incentives based on innings pitched and games started. He will make an additional $250,000 if he reaches 80 innings, with an additional $250,000 if he hits 100, 120, 140, 160 and 180 innings. Young will earn $50,000 for making 10 starts, with additional bonuses for hitting milestones in games started up to 30.
[Correction, 5:55 p.m.] Young could earn as much as $3.775 million in incentives based on innings and starts, which would push the total value of his deal to $5.775 million. Young will make $250,000 if he starts 10 games, with an additional $250,000 added on at specified milestones up to 30 starts. Young will earn $250,000 if he hits 80 innings, with an additional $250,000 coming if he pitches 20 more innings, up to 180.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick first reported some details of Young’s contract.
Young threw live batting practice this morning, his most extensive work since coming to the Nationals late last week. “First time out facing hitters, so his command isn’t where he wants it to be just yet,” pitching coach Steve McCatty said. “When he hit the spot where the ball was elevated a bit, it was tough for them to lay off. … First time, he was nervous. Struggled with his curveball a little bit. For the most part, he was Chris.”
The Nationals hope to slide Young into Ross Detwiler’s spot in the spring rotation after Detwiler departs for the World Baseball Classic. Young, 33, will make his first game appearance March 3 in relief, coming on for Detwiler after Detwiler makes his final pre-WBC start.
Manager Davey Johnson said Young would be “at the top of my list” if the Nationals need to replace a starter because of injury. If Young decides to opt out of his deal, the Nationals would be left to choose from depth that includes lefty reliever Zach Duke, Ross Ohlendorf, Nathan Karns, Tanner Roark and Yunesky Maya. The Nationals are also bent on stretching out Christian Garcia, who is currently shelved with a wrist strain.
Ohlendorf, in Nationals’ camp on a minor league deal, has an opt-out clause in his contract, too, but it cannot be exercised until the middle of the regular season. In other words, the Nationals are free to send Ohlendorf to Class AAA at the end of the spring, but later on in the year he’ll have a chance to stick with a major league team if he’s still in the minors.
Last year, Young went 4-9 with a 4.15 ERA in 20 starts after he returned from 2011 shoulder surgery. In his final eight starts, he added velocity to his fastball and punched up a 3.09 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 16 walks in 46 2/3 innings.