The Nationals signed Chris Young last spring, hoping the former All-Star could be summoned from Class AAA Syracuse in case of a sudden pitching need. Young never did make it to Washington, beset by injuries and poor performance, but the Nationals are willing to give the right-hander another shot.
The Nationals announced Wednesday morning they’ve signed both Young and right-handed reliever Gabriel Alfaro to minor-league contracts. Each pitcher will get an invitation to big-league spring training, with an outside shot at cracking the Opening Day roster.
Young, 34, rejoins the organization after a frustrating 2013. Signed in February, he was supposed to serve as the Nationals’ No. 6 starter, biding his time at Class AAA until a spot in the big-league rotation opened.
But Young, a 2007 All-Star with San Diego and owner of a 3.79 ERA in 159 career starts with the Rangers, Padres and Mets, appeared in only seven games for Syracuse this season and posted a 7.88 ERA. A lingering neck injury sidelined him the majority of the year and kept the Nationals from ever calling him up.
Young’s chances of making the Nationals’ rotation are slim. He probably falls behind prospects Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark and Nate Karns on the organizational depth chart, and general manager Mike Rizzo remains in the market for at least one more experienced, major-league starter.
If Young does make the big-league roster, he will earn a $1.5 million base salary with incentives that could bring that total all the way up to $6 million, according to a source familiar with the contract. As was the case this year, he’s allowed to opt out of the deal at the end of spring training.
Alfaro, meanwhile, joins the Nationals after two years in the Mexican League, where he recorded 26 saves with sub-2.75 ERAs in consecutive seasons for the Oaxaca Guerreros.
The 30-year-old was originally signed by the Blue Jays out of Venezuela and spent 2005-06 pitching for Toronto’s short-season Class A affiliate in Auburn, N.Y. He’s currently pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he owns a 4.38 ERA, 10 strikeouts and seven walks in 12 1/3 innings.