The Nationals added outfield depth Monday evening, announcing the signing of Tony Gwynn Jr. to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Gwynn Jr. played in 80 games for the Phillies last year before being designated for assignment and then signed to a minor league deal in August.
So happy and grateful for the opportunity to continue to play the game I love! #Nationals
— Tony Gwynn Jr. (@tonygwynnjr) March 3, 2015
Gwynn is a left-handed hitter, a somewhat rare commodity on the Nationals roster, though there seems to be no obvious spot for him on the 25-man squad: the Washington bench is lacking in power, and appears to have one, maybe two openings left. With power hitting Tyler Moore and Mike Carp in the mix — both of whom can play first base and hit with more power than Gwynn Jr. — the Nationals’ newest signee would be unlikely to be the final bat chosen off the bench.
Nevertheless, the 32-year-old Gwynn Jr. provides experienced depth should Jayson Werth’s right shoulder not heal in time for opening day, or should Nate McLouth’s surgically repaired shoulder turn out to be unsteady. Both of those players are currently on track to be ready by the start of the regular season.
Gwynn Jr. is a veteran of seven major league seasons with four different teams, though he has never been a particularly productive outfield option. A career .238 contact hitter with speed but little power, his offense fell fast last season to a .152 average and .190 slugging percentage.
Like his Hall of Fame father, Tony Sr., before him, Tony Gwynn Jr. is a well-respected character across baseball. He will be a positive addition to the Space Coast Stadium clubhouse regardless of what he adds on the field. Stephen Strasburg considered Gwynn Sr. to be one of his most formative mentors after Gwynn coached him at San Diego State.
The Nationals begin spring training games Thursday evening.