The Oakland A's continued their tradition of stealthy offseason signings Wednesday, locking up utilityman Nick Punto to a one-year deal worth $3 million guaranteed with a vesting option that could be worth another $2.75 million, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Punto, 36, will receive a base salary this season of $2.75 million, and his option has a $250,000 buyout. It vests if he spends fewer than 30 days on the disabled list this season and would turn into a club option otherwise.
Oakland values flexibility among its infielders, evident already with Jed Lowrie, Alberto Callaspo and Eric Sogard, and Punto's ability to play multiple positions supersedes all of them. He and St. Louis' Daniel Descalso were the only players in baseball last season to log 30-plus games at second base, shortstop and third base. Punto was the fifth-ranked utilityman and 89th overall on Yahoo Sports' Ultimate Free-Agent Tracker.
Punto hit .255/.328/.327 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, filling in ably for injured players, and while he isn't expected to play every day for the two-time defending AL West champions, he does afford them the ability to listen if teams seek out Lowrie as an alternative to elite shortstops such as Troy Tulowitzki or those such as Asdrubal Cabrera or J.J. Hardy on shorter deals.
Whether it's Lowrie, Punto or someone else, Oakland's shortstop in 2014 will simply be keeping the position warm for 19-year-old Addison Russell, whom the A's and others expect to be a star. The plan is to start Russell at Double-A, with the possibility he could join Oakland sometime in 2014.
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