The Phillies announced a pair of minor league signings Wednesday: infielder Hector Luna and outfielder Lou Montanez. Each player adds Major League experience and will be in the mix this spring as non-roster invitees.
Luna, 31, spent last season manning third base for Triple-A Pawtucket (Red Sox) and hit .283/.350/.449 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs in 468 plate appearances. In parts of six Major League seasons, he's a .265/.317/.388 hitter with 13 home runs and 86 RBIs in 311 games with the Cardinals (2004-06), Indians (2006), Blue Jays (2007-08) and Marlins (2010). His last significant Major League role occurred five seasons ago, and since then, his skills have eroded from super-utility to strictly corner infield.
Montañez, 30, spent the majority of the 2011 season with Triple-A Iowa (Cubs) where he hit .321/.396/.492 with 22 doubles, seven triples, seven home runs and 69 RBIs in 382 plate appearances, seeing most of his action in left field and at times right and center. He also earned a call-up with the Cubs, appearing in 36 games, including 12 starts. In parts of four Major League seasons, including 24 starts with the Orioles in 2008, he's a .223/.258/.328 hitter. He was taken by the Cubs with the third overall pick in the June 2000 draft. The Orioles then claimed him as a six-year minor league free agent, then the Cubs offered him another chance last season. He was outrighted to the minors this fall and refused the assignment.
Beerleaguer: Think of Luna as a junior version of Pedro Feliz, a guy who used to play a bunch of positions, but eventually hunkered down at third in his early 30s. Considering the fragility of Placido Polanco and others, Luna, who bats from the right side, can't be ruled out for a job with this club. Stuff happens and guys like Luna periodically come up for air. The Marlins needed him for a bit in 2010. The Red Sox added him as insurance for Jed Lowrie last season, but never needed him and he stayed in the minors. Better baseball skills than a guy like Cody Ransom, but less athleticism (insight you can only find on Beerleaguer).
Montañez probably has a better chance to head north because of his position and handedness relative to that position. When you think about it, he's a decent bargain alternative to Ben Francisco since he can hit left-handed pitching and play the outfield about as well as Ben-Fran. Highly touted, his career fizzled out with the Cubs, then resurrected in the Baltimore chain when he won the Eastern League Triple Crown in 2008, earning his first call-up to the Show that same season. Last season - back with the Cubs - he flashed that same late-blooming promise by helping the Cubs win a couple of games. Good value add. Not as good as Ben Fran, but still.
Rivero goes to Nationals: Infielder Carlos Rivero, who was removed from the 40-man roster to make way for Jimmy Rollins, signed with the Nationals. His bat came alive midway through 2011, but he couldn't field; that's why he's gone. … In other minor league news, Beerleaguer favorite R.J. Swindle signed with the Cardinals.