Washington Nationals Sign Rick Ankiel, Yunesky Maya Dominates DWL.

• Ankiel Signs In D.C.: These things don't bother "The Shark", Roger Bernadina. The Washington Nationals announced this afternoon that they'd signed 31-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder Rick Ankiel to what SI.com's Jon Heyman (@SI_JonHeyman) reported on Twitter, was a one-year/$1.5M dollar deal with incentives which could earn the former St. Louis Cardinals' 1997 2nd Round pick an additional $1.25 million. No less an authority on talent than the legendary now-former Atlanta Braves' Manager Bobby Cox told FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal last August in an article entitled, "Fielder may be hard for Brewers to trade", that Ankiel, "...has the best outfield arm he has ever seen — better than Rocky Colavito, Ellis Valentine, Bill Robinson, you name ‘em." Mr. Cox told the FOXSports.com writer it was tough to say, because of the respect he had for Colavito, "'But I’ve never seen anybody throw like [Ankiel].'" The new Nats' outfielder is, of course, a former pitcher who reinvented himself as an outfielder in St. Louis and worked his way back to the majors with the Cards to play three seasons in the field before signing as a free agent with Kansas City last winter and getting traded to Atlanta last July. 

MLB.com's Bill Ladson (@washingnats) confirmed the deal on Twitter, right after SI.com's Jon Heyman's announcement, then later reported that, "Ankiel will compete against Roger Bernadina for the job in left field," adding in his article on Ankiel coming to D.C. entitled, "Ankiel lands one-year contract with Nationals", that a source told him, "Washington has not ruled out Ankiel competing against Nyjer Morgan in center field," as well. Ankiel missed time with injuries last season, playing just 74 games total between Kansas City and Atlanta, in which he posted a combined .232/.321/.389 slash line in 211 at bats, with 13 doubles and 6 HR's to Roger Bernadina's .246/.307/.384, 18 and 11 in 134 games and 414 at bats and Nyjer Morgan's .253/.319/.314 line, 17 doubles, 7 triples and 34 stolen bases in 136 and 509.

• Nats Sign Seven: The Nationals also signed seven minor league players to contracts today, inking right-handed pitchers Joe Bisenius, Ryan Mattheus and Tim Wood, first baseman Michael Aubrey, infielder Brian Bixler and outfielders Jeff Frazier and Jonathan Van Every to minor-league contracts with invitations to Spring Training. (ed. note - "MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling (@MASNBen) noted later in the day that, '...Ryan Mattheus' deal [was] actually a major league contract,' so there would be, 'Another 40-man move coming.'") Check the Nats' official press release for the quick bios on each player.

• Maya Dominates DWL: I got a note from the Dominican Baseball Guy behind Dominican Baseball Guy.com recently, alerting me to the fact that Nats' right-hander Yunesky Maya had been named the Pitcher of the Week in the Liga de Beisbol Dominicano for the week of December 6-12 in recognition of the 29-year-old Leones del Escogido starter's 6.0-inning, 3-hit shutout of the Gigantes del Cibao on December 8th. Maya had walked just one batter while striking out seven in what was his sixth start this Winter. This past Wednesday, Maya made his seventh start for the Leones against Estrellas de Oriente, giving up 4 hits and 1 ER on a HR by Texas Rangers' first baseman Chris Davis, who's hit 6 out so far in 22 DWL games. Maya K'd 8 and walked just 2 on Wednesday, and he drew 9 groundouts (1 flyout) out of the Oriente batters, leaving the Cuban-born pitcher with 41 K's in 39.0 IP this winter, in which he's walked just 9 while surrendering 21 hits, 3 runs (all earned) and just the one HR. (4-1) with a 0.69 ERA after seven starts, Maya's held opponents to a .164 batting average against. In 5 starts and 26.0 IP for Washington after he joined the team in September, Maya gave up 30 hits, 18 runs, 17 ER, 3 HR's and 11 walks, while recording just 12 K's...Whatever he's doing down there is working, will it translate to the Majors?

• Webb Looking Elsewhere?: In other developments this afternoon. MLB.com's Bill Ladson (again @washingnats), tweeted this afternoon that the, "The #Cubs and #Rangers have jumped ahead of the #Nats in the Brandon Webb sweepstakes." In first base news, a, "Source close to situation," spoke to MLB.com Orioles beat writer Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli), saying that, "[Adam] LaRoche is still undecided about 2011," with the San Diego Padres, Nats and O's all mentioned (hashtagged actually) as options for the free agent. FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) says Derrek Lee's looking for $8-10 million for one year, which in his opinion is, "...prob[ably] high for #Padres, but not necessarily [the] Nationals." MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, who covers Milwaukee, writes today that (fairly predictably), the, "Brewers out on Pavano," which leaves, "The Twins, Nationals and at least one other club," as teams that, "have been in contact with Pavano and his agent, Tom O'Connell." Not another mystery club...

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