Nationals Add Micah Owings Bat in Minor Deal

In one of the most interesting signings of the winter, the Washington Nationals have signed Micah Owings to a minor league contract, with an invitation to major league camp.  Owings missed most of 2012 with an elbow injury, but his projected comeback from that procedure is not what makes this deal different.  Despite sporting a lifetime won-lost record of 32-33, Owings is listed as a first baseman on the Nationals depth chart.


The 30-year old lefthander was originally drafted and signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2005.  He was used primarily as a starter in 2007-08 before he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in a deal that saw Adam Dunn go to Arizona.  In 2009, the Reds continued to use him mostly as a starter, but for the third consecutive season, he failed to post a winning record.  2010 saw him move to the bullpen.  After that season, he returned to the Diamondbacks as a free agent, and did a very serviceable job out of their pen, showing a career best 1.254 WHIP and 8-0 record in 63 innings of work.  All this time the Gainesville, Georgia native was gaining a reputation with his stick.  In only 203 big league at-bats, Micah had stroked nine homers and driven in 35 runs with a .283 batting average.

A free agent again following the 2011 campaign, Owings signed with the San Diego Padres.  Elbow problems limited him, however, to only six appearances and nine innings before he was forced to shut down in late April.  Surgery to clean up his elbow followed in July.  The Padres chose not to wait out Owings' rehab, and released him in October.

Owings will now attempt what former Nationals centerfielder Rick Ankiel accomplished...to move from the mound to position player at the highest level of competition.  Brooks Kieschnick (Cubs, Reds, Rockies, and Brewers) made the move from the field to the mound with the 2003 Brewers and found mild success.  Mel Queen of the Cincinnati Reds (whose dad Mel Queen was a big league pitcher as well) also transitioned from outfield to mound in 1966.  Queen Jr. authored fourteen wins and a 1.058 WHIP in 1967, but had very little success thereafter.

Owings, 6'5" and 220 lbs. certainly has the size of a first sacker.  His minor league .337 batting average makes this a risk with possible great reward for both him and the Nationals, and takes the issues with his elbow down to a minimum.  Should the arm fully recover, his utility as both a hitter and emergency hurler could add years to his career.

 

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