Moneyball, meet the Original Piranha: The Oakland Athletics announced Wednesday they have signed infielder Nick Punto to a one-year contract with a vesting option for 2015. He'll receive a $2.75 million base salary plus a vesting option for the same amount in 2015 that includes a $250,000 buyout, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports.
It's a pretty good deal for the A's, who are famous for finding those less-expensive market inefficiencies.
Punto has stuck around for parts of 13 major league seasons by being able to play three infield positions effectively. He hit .255/.328/.327 in 335 plate appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013, which is about what he's averaged in his career. Diminutive for a baseball player at 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, Punto also has a reputation for hustling in the field and the bases. He's an "effort guy" who has the three G's — grit, guts and gumption. Sometimes, these qualities will make Punto slide into first base for no good reason whatsoever.
Brought up by the Phillies, he first got significant playing time for the Minnesota Twins. It was there he and the small-market Twins were dubbed "Piranhas" by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen for their small stature, tenacious attitude and ability to make the White Sox bleed profusely.
A switch-hitter who is better from the right side, he'll probably play a lot of second base against left-handed pitching. He'll also probably spell Jed Lowrie (whom the A's aren't looking to trade, manager Bob Melvin says) at shortstop on defense in the late innings. But, as A's assistant GM David Forst told the media, his club is just looking at adding talented players right now. How the lineup shakes out in reality, time will tell.
Punto, who got a World Series ring with the Cardinals in 2011, can help the A's win. And he's going to get very dirty along the way.
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