Switch-hitting utilityman Andres Blanco, 27, opted out of his contract with the Nationals after failing to win a spot on their roster. He has reportedly been assigned to minor league camp.
Beerleaguer: Blanco was a member of both Rangers' World Series teams and appears to be a good, economical fit for the Phillies given the circumstances. From everything I've read, the Rangers thought highly of Blanco's glove and versatility in a way that reminds me of how the Phillies regarded Wilson Valdez for the last two seasons. They have very similar skill sets and resumes as middle infielders who bounced between a couple of different places and could never quite stick.
He's had health issues. A stress fracture in Blanco's back kept him off the Rangers' post-season roster in 2011, a bumpy season in which he hit just .224/.263/.342 in 82 plate appearances. But the season before, he posted a capable .277/.330/.349 for Ron Washington's club. The Rangers, that offseason, tried to convert him into an outfielder and catcher during a winter ball. He made the club as a utilityman and appeared in 11 games as a right field defensive replacement.
Following the season, Blanco's accrued service time and health concerns made him expendable and he was outrighted to the minors. He elected free agency and signed as a non-roster invitee with the Nationals, opting out of his deal when he was informed he wouldn't make the club.
This is a good pick-up. Blanco, a career .255/.301/.333 hitter over 654 plate appearances in parts of six Major League seasons with the Royals, Cubs and Rangers, is no threat to homer or swipe a bag, but should be considered an upgrade over Michael Martinez, who is two years older and less experienced. The Phils will see where he's at, post-back problems, and if they like what they see in Minor League camp, he could work his way up to Philadelphia, just as Valdez did in 2010.
One caveat: Blanco had only two hits in 32 Grapefruit League at-bats for Washington.
Contreras unlikely for opening day: Jose Contreras, and possibly Mike Stutes, could start the season on the disabled list, Jim Salisbury reports. Salisbury reminds readers that Joe Blanton could work out of the bullpen for the first week of the season, which would allow the Phillies to open with six relievers instead of seven. David Herndon, Joe Savery and Raul Valdes are still in the mix for roster spots.