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Nationals sign veteran Asdrúbal Cabrera to bolster infield depth

Asdrúbal Cabrera will return to the Nationals after he was designated for assignment by the Rangers last week. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

SAN FRANCISCO — The Washington Nationals signed Asdrúbal Cabrera to a major league deal, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, strengthening their bench and infield depth ahead of the pennant race.

Cabrera, 33, appeared in 93 games with the Texas Rangers this season before he was designated for assignment Wednesday. He then cleared outright waivers and became a free agent, giving every team a chance to pick him up. The Nationals took that chance, just five days after the trade deadline, and it’s a logical move, given the players on the 10-day injured list. Ryan Zimmerman is out with plantar fasciitis in his right foot for the second time this season. Howie Kendrick is again sidelined by a left hamstring strain.

Manager Dave Martinez did not want to discuss Cabrera ahead of Monday night’s game against the San Francisco Giants, saying he will wait until the veteran is on the roster. Cabrera is expected to join the Nationals in San Francisco on Tuesday. But Martinez did talk about his thinned bench.

“It’s tough,” Martinez said. “Even pinch-hitting fairly early, when you don’t have those guys, it’s tough. I know [Andrew] Stevenson has done a nice job, [Adrián] Sanchez has actually swung the bat a lot better, so we still have the guys. But when we have those other guys that are playing now consistently, [Gerardo] Parra, Matt Adams playing first base now almost every day, you don’t have those guys that we say, ‘Okay, here we go.’”

Those “Okay, here we go” guys are pinch hitters who can make a difference offensively. Stevenson and Sanchez are stopgaps who don’t fit the profile. Cabrera could. He hit .235 with 12 home runs and 51 RBI for the Rangers this season. He played 49 games for the Nationals in 2014, arriving in a midseason trade with the Cleveland Indians, and has since bounced from Tampa Bay to the New York Mets to Philadelphia last season to Texas and now Washington. He can’t seem to stay away from the National League East.

He started 90 games at third base this year and did not play any other defensive position. He has also played second, first and a bit of shortstop in recent seasons. To make room for him, the Nationals will need to clear space on their 25- and 40-man rosters. Sanchez probably will be optioned to the minors, opening a spot on the 25-man roster, because the Nationals won’t need two utility infielders on a four-player bench. The 40-man roster decision is less clear, but Washington could place reliever Austen Williams on the 60-day IL because he has already been out since late April with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder.

If Sanchez is optioned, the reserves would be Cabrera, Parra, Stevenson and whoever isn’t catching between Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki. And Martinez will no longer be operating with an entirely makeshift bench.


Nationals (58-53)

Trea Turner SS

Adam Eaton RF

Anthony Rendon 3B

Juan Soto LF

Matt Adams 1B

Brian Dozier 2B

Kurt Suzuki C

Victor Robles CF

Erick Fedde P

Giants (56-56)

Brandon Belt 1B

Mike Yastrzemski LF

Buster Posey C

Pablo Sandoval 3B

Scooter Gennett 2B

Brandon Crawford SS

Kevin Pillar CF

Steven Duggar RF

Jeff Samardzija P

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