Blue Jays boost outfield depth, sign Dayan Viciedo
DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) The Toronto Blue Jays boosted their outfield depth Sunday, signing Dayan Viciedo to a minor league contract and saying he might be able to earn a spot at another position.
The deal came a few days after Toronto outfielder Michael Saunders tore cartilage in his knee when he stepped on a sprinkler while chasing a ball. Saunders had surgery and is expected to be out five to six weeks.
The 25-year-old Viciedo hit 21 home runs for the Chicago White Sox last season while batting .231 with 58 RBIs. The Cuban is known for his power, not his plate discipline or defense - he struck out 122 times and drew just 32 walks last year.
''He's got some power, a right-handed bat,'' general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. ''Has played some third (base) in his career, played some first. Certainly played the outfield and we'll just take a look at him for the month of March and see what we have.''
On Thursday, the Blue Jays signed former two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana to a minor league deal. Santana, sidelined by shoulder and Achilles injuries, last threw in the majors in 2012.
Both players would get a pro-rated $2.5 million, one-year deal if they make the team, and Santana could also earn performance bonuses. The minor league rate is $20,000 a month.
''Any minor league deal, there's no downside to it,'' Anthopoulos said. ''You always take chances on those.''
Viciedo signed a $10-million, four-year deal with the White Sox in December 2008. He settled on a one-year, $4.4 million contract in arbitration earlier this year but was cut loose with Chicago looking to use newcomer Melky Cabrera in left field.
Viciedo gives the Jays another option in left field with Saunders out. But given Saunders' expected early return date, Viciedo might have a better shot of sticking elsewhere, with Anthopoulos saying a first base-designated hitter slot is ''the most wide open spot in terms of competition.''
The Blue Jays have talked about giving Edwin Encarnacion, who plays both positions, more time at DH to save his body. Justin Smoak, Daric Barton and Matt Hague are other first base options.
Viciedo hit well against left-handers earlier in his career (.350 against left-handers and .225 against right-handers in 2012) but his splits have narrowed since. He hit .221 against lefties and .235 against righties last season.
If Viciedo is physically fine, he's set to take the field Tuesday.
''If he makes the team better, maybe there's a spot for him,'' manager John Gibbons said. ''But he's got to play well.''
Added Anthopoulos: ''I think the big thing is we want to see how he hits.''