The Washington Nationals announced that they’ve signed right-handed pitcher Micah Owings to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training.
Interestingly enough, the Nationals listed Owings as a first baseman, as to a pitcher. Owings has spent all six of his seasons in the big leagues as a pitcher, though he’s been known as one of the best-hitting pitchers in recent memory – boasting a .283 career batting average.
I’m very intrigued by this move. It gives the Nationals depth, something that we know Mike Rizzo and company always love, but it also adds perhaps the most versatile bench player they could ever sign. Owings spoke earlier this offseason about potentially being one of those guys that could come in to pitch to a batter, move to a fielding position while a lefty specialist came in, and then go back to pitching against the next right-handed batter so that his team wouldn’t burn another bullpen arm. Do the Nationals have that plan in mind for Owings? I have no clue. But if he looks good in Spring Training, I wouldn’t put it past them.
With Owings, you’re looking at a guy that could potentially come in and pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot, and then go out there and pitch the following inning. This would be beneficial in cases of two-on, two-out where Davey Johnson isn’t quite ready to give the ball to a Tyler Clippard or a Drew Storen, but does need to pinch hit to score a run. It’s also beneficial in bunting situations with a runner on third and less than two outs.
The other thing to keep in mind, as I mentioned earlier, is that the Nationals didn’t even list Owings as a pitcher; they listed him as a first baseman. That means they’re planning on developing his bat, which is something I can’t wait to see. Owings hardly practiced hitting when he was primarily a pitcher, yet he still hit .283. If he spends some serious time in the cage and gets some consistent at-bats in the high minors, that bat could potentially flourish. Now, there’s also the fact that pitchers will now account for Owings in their game plans, as to throwing him junk when he was a pitcher, but the concept of Owings becoming a hitter is still very exciting. The possibilities are endless, and this could potentially be one of the best minor league contracts this offseason.